Historical and Philosophical Devept of Labour Relations in Nigeria Essay

NAME: LUGARD IBHAFIDON SADOH DEPT: INDUSTRIAL SOCIOLOGY & LABOUR RELATIONS DATE:4th MARCH, 2010. COURSE: LABOUR RELATIONS QUESTION: Historical and Philosophical development of Labour Relations within the Past two decades in Nigeria ANSWER: INTRODUCTION During the military regime, Nigeria witnessed series of labour unrests and agitation which led to some amendments of labour Acts and introduction of new laws.

The period under review; (1990 to 2010) witnessed partial transfer of power from the military elite to civil rule for a while (Ibrahim Babangida to Ernest Shonekan); election and cancellation of June, 12 election, dictatorial style of Abacha and full transfer of power to civil rule in 1999 by Abdulasalami : so for the first time in Nigeria the country has witnessed ten (10) years of uninterrupted democracy and legislation by elected men and women. Obi (1995; 50) notes “The circumstances of Nigeria society are contained in its politico-economic history”….

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So to have a full grasp of the historical and philosophical development of labour relations, we shall streamline our discussion within the period. We shall also attempt to apply Karl Marx’s theory of conflict and contradiction. Theory of conflict and contradiction by Karl Marx For Marx the ultimate contradiction within capitalism exist in the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. According to him the bourgeoisie produces the proletariat by so doing they are producing their own grave diggers. George, 2000) As capitalism expands the number of exploited workers and the degree of exploitation increases, chances are for the level of exploitation to escalate which will lead to more and more resistance on the part of the proletariat. What is of importance here is that the conflict is produced by the bourgeoisie’s unwillingness to allow the proletariats access to the surplus (profit) of the work of their hands. In this presentation Karl Marx’s theory of conflict is used to explain the historical and philosophical development of labour Relations in Nigeria from 990 – 2010. 1. Labour Relations from 1990 – 2010 Between 1990 and 2010 a lot of issues were raised, discussed and amended as it concerns the Labour Act. The early 90’s witnessed the rise in labour agitation not just for good pay or condition of service but for transfer of power from the military to civil rule. With the indiscriminate spending of money by the ruling elites labour groups and organizations began to ask for pay rise, improved condition of service, and harmonized salary scale among others.

In the heart of this agitation were trade unions such as Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and it non academic counterpart, Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) Trade Union Congress (TUC) amongst others. The actions of these industrial organizations range from outright strikes, public protests/demonstration, boycott etc. Government soon discovered that its use of threat and intimidation was producing more labour unrest; hence the need for the introduction of the National Minimum Act, 2000.

The Act came into effect on May 1st 2000, to amend the laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 No. 48. Section 1 of the principal Act is amended:- 1) As from the commencement of this Act, it shall be the duty of every employer/except as provided for under this Act) to pay a wage not less than National Minimum wage at N5,500. 00 per month to every worker under his establishment. It is important to note that this land mark achievement for labour was achieved during the civilian rule of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

Closely related to the National Minimum wage act is the Workmens compensation Act of 1990. The Act seeks to provide for the compensation of the worker or his family in the event of injury, disability or death in the course of duty. Section 3(1) subject to subsection (2) of this section, if in an employment personal injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment is caused to a workman, his employer shall, subject as hereinafter mentioned be liable to pay compensation in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

This compensation Act however does not cover any incapacity or death resulting from a deliberate act of self inflicted injury or death. The clash between the organized labour (NLC specifically) and the federal government of Nigeria took a different toll in 1996 when the federal military government introduced Trade Unions (Amendment) Decree of 1996. The decree amongst others sought to reduce the number of labour unions affiliated to the central labour body in order to reduce the power of the central labour organization.

It also gave powers to the minister for the dissolution of unions, cancellation of certificates of registration of the unions. It also transferred the functions and powers of the high court to the minister. The amendment also defined areas of jurisdiction to the restructured trade union. Relating this Nigerian experience to Karl Marx’s theory of class conflict and contradiction will reveal that the capitalist (federal government) wants to ensure that the proletariats (labour unions) are exploited without the right to complain (George, 2000).

The Abacha led government was however shocked that instead of submission the labour organizations resorted to more struggle for the emancipation of the Nigerian worker. This era also witnessed industrial strike actions by labour groups in essential services such as Doctors, Nurses, Health workers, Police, NITEC, NEPA, etc. All these industrial actions took place because of unresolved disputes between workers and their employers. All these gave room for the Trade Dispute Act of 1990 to amend or repeal earlier acts and decrees.

This Act makes provision for procedure before dispute is reported, the power of the minister to intervene in any perceived apprehension of dispute between employers and labour organizations. Reporting of dispute if not amicably settled, appointment of conciliator for the purpose of settling the disputes, reference of dispute to arbitration tribunal if conciliation fails, reference of dispute to National Industrial Court if unresolved, prohibition of lock outs and strikes before issues of award of National Industrial Court (NIC).

Experts like Obi (2004; 34) have opined that the “Nigerian factor” such as bribery and corruption; and social cultural factors such as political connections, socio-economic affiliation, ethnicity, tribalism, statism, religious affiliation, sexism and gender discrimination are factors which may cause Arbitration to fail to settle industrial disputes. Again Arbitration is seen here as a tool by the employers of labour to explioit the workers group.

Obi (2004; 34) further noted that “… Industrial Arbitration Tribunal (IAT) are dancing to the tune of their pay master (i. e. the government) in settling trade disputes. The rise in industrial dispute and strikes further led to the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act, 2005. The act amongst others sought to decentralize or democratize labour unions. The aim from observation is to reduce the potency or organized labour unions like the NLC. The amendment also emphasized that a group of individuals can come together to form a union or an association.

It also made membership of labour unions voluntary or optional. The amendment also made it an offence to compel any person who is not a member of its union to join any strike or in any manner whatsoever prevent aircrafts from flying or obstruct public highways, institutions or premises of any kind for the purposes of giving effect to strike. The act also makes it an offence for persons in essential services to embark in a strike or lock out.

However, like I noted earlier inspite of government intimidation through legislature aimed at compelling persons in essential services not to embark on strike actions the use of strike and lock outs have been on the increase by labour unions to press home their demands for better [pay or improved conditions of work and work environment. One of the best legislation for labour in the past two decades in my opinion is the pension Reform Act of 2004. The Acts amongst several gave rise for the establishment of a contributory Pension Scheme for payment of retirement benefits of employees in any employment in the country.

The three broad objectives of the scheme are in section 2(a)(b) and (a). (a) Ensure that every person who worked in either public service of the federation, federal capital territory or private sector receives his retirement benefits as and when due. (b) Assist improvident individuals by ensuring that they save in order to cater for their livelihood during old age and (c) Establish a uniform set of rules, regulations and standards for the administration and payments of retirement benefits for the public service of the federation, federal capital territory and the private sector.

The Act also gave rise for the establishment and emergence of pension fund administrators (PFA) and custodians. Prior to this was the establishment of a body known as the National Pension Commission whose principal objective is to regulate supervise and ensure the effective administration of pension matters in Nigeria. This laudable Act has helped to ensure that employees and employers collaborate to save/contribute to workers pension while in active service. CONCLUSION

Obi (1995) opined that “the philosophy of the government was state control and interventionism which was effected by a chain of labour decrees and are still in use up to date. In support with the above opinion, it is clear that the government uses its state powers to confront and suppress all forms of labour agitation. This however has constantly met with stiff opposition and agitation by the labour force/unions. The philosophy of labour relations in the last two decades in Nigeria is not only that of state control and interventionism, it is also that of class struggle and confrontation by both parties to press home their demands or plans.

While the state uses its state powers; Arbitration panels, ‘no work no pay’ rule to insist that productive activity must continue the workers/labour groups have resorted to the use of strike, down tools and other industrial actions at every given opportunity to send warning signals to employers of labour. This contention and confrontation has continued till date. However, it is important to note that sincere round table dialogue between all stake holders is the best tool to resolve labour issues. References

Federal Republic of Nigeria, Official Gazette, Pension Reform Act, 2004. A29 – A67. George, R. (2000): Classical Sociological theory. USA. The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc. Pp. 55. Obi R. U. (2004) “Arbitration as a Tool for Conflict Resolution in industrial Relations in Nigeria” in Social Problems theoretical paradigms in contemporary sociology – Nigeria Sociological Society. Lagos, Nigeria. Pp 22 – 38. Obi R. U. (2004) Industrial Sociology and labour Relations in Nigeria. Benin Ethiope Publishers P. SD.

The law of the federation of Nigeria (1990) Amendment of Trade dispute Decree /91996) now Dispute Acts chapter 432. The laws of the federation of Nigeria (1990) Trade Unions Act Chapter 437 sections 1 – 54. The laws of the federation of Nigeria, Trade Unions (Amendment) Act (2005), sections 1 – 11. The laws of the federation of Nigeria (1990): Workmen’s Compensation Act, sections 1 – 42. The laws of the federation of Nigeria: The National minimum wage Act (2000), sections 1 – 3. The Federal Republic of Nigeria official Gazette, ‘Trade Unions (Amendment) Decree (1996).


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