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One of the major impediments to development in Nigeria is labour
unrest. This is given the fact that no Nation can develop without human
resource because they constitute and play very significant role in
Nation building and development. The Nigerian case has been so pervasive
that labour unrest extends to every situation when the Government takes
major public policy decision that seems to affect the labour union and
generally the masses without due consultation of labour statement;
especially that which affects the social life of their member and
welfare packages of the entire masses, specifically that which affect
the socio-economic and political aspects, hence Nigerian development
Thus in our attempt to analyze and investigate this problem, we use the relative deprivation theory for theoretical framework while documentary research method was also used for gathering and analyzing data.
This research work, labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria: An appraisal from 2000 – 2013 is being carried out for the purpose of assessing various means of curbing labour unrest. This study is however divided into five chapters, chapter one deals with the background of study, statement of the problem, objective of the study, significance of the study, hypotheses, method of data collection and analysis, scope and limitation of the study and definition of terms. Chapter two contains the public policies and labour unrest in Nigeria. In chapter three, we looked at labour unrest and underdevelopment. Chapter four of this work dealt with the strategies for curbing labour unrest in Nigeria.
Finally, chapter five which is the last chapter efforts shifted to the summary, conclusion, recommendation and bibliography. However this work is very incisive, interesting and educating.
1.1 Background of the Study
The organized labour union movements in Nigeria dates back to 1912, Nigeria workers like their counterparts in other developing countries have witnessed fundamental changes in their condition over time. To a large extent, labour unions have played significant roles in the transformation of most developing countries.
Government is the largest employer of labour with private individual employing a minimal proportion of the working class (Fajara, 2000). In Nigeria, labour unions has become a very important agents of socio-economic transformation and class struggle (Aremu, 1996, Akinyanju, 1997) which began from the colonial struggle and continued till in the post independence era. In the later, labour unions played significant role in the struggle against dictatorial military rule in the country. In the same vein under the current civilian dispensation, labour unions is at the forefront of the struggle against unpopular government policies such as deregulation of the oil sector, retrenchment of workers and refusal to honor agreement on wage increase.
Nigeria is a third world country that comprise of labour unions spread across the country. The unions are structured into industrial line and as at 1977 precisely 42 labour unions were recognized by the Government and allowed to contribute enormously to the development of economic, social, cultural and even political system of the state. The role of these labour unions is usually regarded as people oriented because it tends to oppose Governmental policies and decisions not favorable to the masses through strike actions, protest etc popularly called labour unrest.
However, in a multi ethnic democratic country like Nigeria, there exist different labour unions across the country. But for the purpose of this study, we shall dwell more on those labour unions that have in one way or the other succeeded in influencing Governmental policies and decision. In the past such as: National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAU) Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ).
In 1978 however, it’s important to note that Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) was formed and inaugurated and the 42 industrial unions became affiliates of the Nigerian Labour Congress with a legal backing of the trade union amendment Decree 22 of 1978. Again in 1989 the trade union was restructured to become 29 affiliates unions to the Nigerian Labour Congress after their role against the anti-people Structural Adjustment programme of General Babangida.
Consequently, in 2005, the trade union act section 33 (2) was amended
by substituting the phrase “central labour organization” for the phrase
“federation of trade unions” the intention was to weaken the cohesion
of the trade unions.
Since time immemorial labour unrest has always occupied the front burner of criticisms and oppositions. in Nigeria whenever the Government through its policies makes life unbearable for its citizens.
Nevertheless most activities of the organized labour in the form of unrest to attack Government policies and programmes often result in underdevelopment and grounding of the economy culminating in loss of revenues and sundry economic activities. However, it is not implausible to aver that one of the greatest problems that result to labour unrest and consequently underdevelopment is Governmental policies and
programmes on certain National issues especially those that affect the labour unions across the Nation.
In the light of these, this research work is inspired out of the burning desire to interrogate the motive of the labour union in their activities through protest, strikes etc against certain Governmental policies and programmes through a critical analysis and alternative roadmap to labour unrest with a view to averting resultant and decay in Nigeria.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Labour unrest remain one of the most glaring problems hindering the development of this great nation especially when Government tends to implement policies and programmes not favorably for the majority of the people in the society (country). This is because the labour unions, using the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) ad TUC (Trade Union Congress) as the umbrella bodies tends to constitute parts of organization or union that keeps the country going through their daily activities. In order words, when there is labour unrest, the economy of the country tends to be disrupted and destabilized which is why whenever Government policies and programmes that are not favorable to labour are formulated, there is usually a mass protest and strikes that dislocates the economy as the civil servants who are very significant to the Government of the day also partake in the strike and protest by not going to work.
However, the study shall make a critical appraisal of some of the major cases (protest and strikes) by labour unions and also investigate their modus operandi, so as to River at the objectives of the study, in the quest of doing this, the following research question would serve as a guide.
i. Are public policies responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria?
ii. Is underdevelopment a consequent of labour unrest in Nigeria?
iii. Can dialogue and collective bargaining curb labour unrest in Nigeria?
1.3 Objectives of the Study
The broad objective of the study is to assess the consequences of labour unrest on Nigeria’s development. Thus the specific objectives of the study are:
(i) To ascertain if public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria.
(ii) To determine if underdevelopment is a consequence of labour unrest in Nigeria.
(iii) To discover if dialogue and collective bargaining can curb labour union in Nigeria
1.4 Literature Review
The literature review of this work is based on 2 concepts via-a-viz labour unrest and underdevelopment.
These concepts are social science concepts which of course lack clearly definite definition hence scholars see it from their own view point and encapsulated.
Firstly labour union according to Fagane (2009) is any combination whether temporary or permanent. According to him, its principal objectives are the regulation of the relationship between work-men and workmen or between masters and masters or the imposing of restrictive conditions on the conduct of any trade or business and also the provision and benefits of members.
However, labour union is important to note are the main power resource of working people. The power in this collectivity of workers tends to promote the resolution of a variety of problems faced by the workforce which help in Nation building.
Labour unrest according to Amesen Eric (2007) is a term used by
employers or those generally in the business community to describe
organizing the strike actions undertaken by labour unions especially
where labour disputes become violent or where industrial actions which
members of a workforce obstruct the normal process of business and
generate industrial unrest are essayed.
Labour unrest could be defined as the disruption of the day to day labour activities that generates income both local and international In the country and makes the economy stagnant for a while due to the strike action and protest by labour unions in the process of facilitating the interest of their members endangered by Government policies unfavorable to them (Labour Unions). However unrest in organization and industrial establishment can be disruptive when the organizational goals are stressful to the health of industrial workers.
Again labour unrest can be defined as the inability of members in a role set are unable to reach an agreement on an issue concerned with the objective of interaction. There is hardly any gainsaying the fact that industrial conflict on labour unrest are realities of any economic system where workers and the management interact. Labour unrest seems to be more pronounced in public sector organization most especially. Anugwom and Ukaegbu (1998) argue that public union have substantial market power and are usually in a position to play a key role in the political process and its this unique positioning that make them conflict prone.
Dimension of Labour Unrest
Labour unrest is so closely related to loss of peace because like Ofube (2001) argues that unrest (conflict) is as central to life, because like we know, life without conflict is no life. Therefore labour unrest is not abnormal in any organization (private or public). Hence in the public sector, workers are always disenchanted with the Government over its handling of workers welfare and the general penury facing the nation.
Anugwom (1997) views the dimension of labour unrest as a situation when the economic depression in the country as exposing workers to a high level of economic hardship. He further contends that the public sector workers especially have been faced by given economic realities and may have seen unrest as a way of breaking loose from the shackles of economic deprivation.
Okechukwu R. O. (2002) expresses his view in the labour unrest in Nigeria especially the June 2000 strike and argued that some Government policies that are unfavorable to the workers tend to generate the often strike action and protest leading to labour unrest.
Finally it’s important to understand here that when Government formulates policies not favorable to labour unions, they adopt some strategies or dimensions leading to labour unrest in the country.
(a) Labour Unions threaten the Government by issuing ultimatum within which its demand will be met. Thus failure of the Government to oblige them may elicit strike or demonstration thereby leading to labour unrest.
(b) Propaganda using mass media and handbills is another dimension of labour unrest; here workers all over the federation are notified on the latest development and even the public.
(c) Employment of protests, strikes and demonstrations is another dimension of labour unrest which could be peaceful or violent.
In economics underdevelopment is when resources are not used to their full socio-economic potential, with the result that local development is slower in most cases than it should be. more so, it results from the complex interplay of internal and external factors that allow less developed countries only a lop-sided development progression.
Effects of labour unrest and underdevelopment
(i) Underdeveloped countries have low reservoir of natural resources and as such any kind of labour unrest tends to destroy some of these resources in the country.
(ii) Socio-economic inequality: This is another effect that propagates labour unrest in Nigeria that leads to underdevelopment.
(iii) Low level of industrialization.
(iv) An unconditional policy is another effect of labour unrest and underdevelopment that hinders development in Nigeria, because Government policy not favorable to this labour union across the federation tends to generate labour unrest.
Ezema (2007) contends that most labour union and workers are often
very restless and confrontational in their approach to issues which
affect them as a group such as not fulfilling some of the employment
contracts and as such, workers result to anti-government posture which
if care is not taken can lead to labour unrest or even tear the state
The existing gap here is that Government always perceive the workers as lazy, uncooperative individuals, who always hold secret labour meetings and plan drastic actions against Government and any other organization they consider threat to their interest while on the other hand workers (labour unions) perceive the Government as exploiting them especially when they make policies concerning labour without labours consultations (Chukwu, 2008). It is this perceptual basis arising from the Government and the workers that sometimes serve as the “brewing pot” of labour unrest. Hence the Nation tends to loose a great deal of financial and material resources (Akereke, 2010).
1.5 Significance of the Study
Essentially, every research is a quantum of knowledge; this study will therefore be of a theoretical significance to future researchers as it is going to enclose the identified questions. Also, it is going to add to the existing body of literature as it tends to extend the frontier of knowledge. The study will definitely put the icing on the case already existing literature of labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria.
Thus its importance lies in the very fact that labour unrest is currently a prevailing cancaworm and it is very spontaneous and topical. However this work will in the long run guide the Government in the quest to quell further problems associated with labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria in the nearest future.
1.6 Theoretical Framework
The relative deprivation frustration aggression theory will stand as the theoretical framework of this study Dollard (1939) postulates that the primary source of the human capacity for violence appears to be frustration aggression mechanism.
Thus according to him, anger induced by frustration is a motivating force that disposes man to aggression. Frustration is an interference with goal directed behavior.
According to Gurr, “Relative Deprivation is a perceived discrepancy between relative deprivation and their value capabilities”.
Value expectations are the goods and conditions of life to which people believe they are rightfully entitled. Value capabilities are goals and conditions they think they are capable of attaining and maintaining given the social means available to them. Gurr also suggests some variables that affect the intensity of emotional respond to the perception of deprivation.
The first proposition is that the greater the extent of discrepancy the man sees between what they seek and what seems to be attainable, the greater their anger and consequence disposition to aggression.
The second proposition relates to oppositions “men who feel they have many ways to attain their pals are less likely to become angry when one is blocked than those who have very few alternatives.
The third general proposition is that the greater the intensity of men’s expectations, the greater their anger when they meet unexpected or increased resistance.
Gurr further states four (4) intervening variables in his quest to expatiate the Relative deprivation frustration model. Thus the legitimacy of the political regime in which violence occurs, coercive potential
institutionalization and social structures which may condition the perception of deprivation.
However, in a related manner, James Davies attributed violent outbreak to the frustration that result from short term decline in achievement following a long term increase that generate expectation about continuing increase. Basically, a person thwarted in the attempt to reach a goal is made angry and likely to protest against the imputed sources of frustration.
Dowse and Hughes observes in social life, men comes to value many things, status, power, security, equality, freedom, wealth etc when they cannot achieve those values means loosing another, angry, dissatisfaction and in the cases aggression occur, Mayer (1976) argued in support that the normal tendency towards violence aggression or dispute is increasingly frustration desire. To him, when a goal presumably attractive two or more individuals is made available in such a way that it can be obtained looser. Those frustrate actors in political system can become sponsors of things kidnapers or even cause political, economic or even labour unrest in the country.
Davies (1973) postulates that aggressive action required four (4) main steps namely: activation of demand, frustration of demand mental process of deciding how to overcome.
Thus it is important to note that various individuals or groups involved in political, religious or even labour unrest such as the Nigeria labour congress, (NLC), trade union congress (TUC), academic staff union of universities (ASUU) etc engage in peaceful protest and subsequent strike because they perceive a sense of injustice on the part of the Government from its policies.
This is often due to the fact their needs are not properly met, and as a result of this, they stoop to strike and protest which could induce violence from some individuals and the Government of the day sees it as a rebellious act, hence the lost of popular consensus and legitimacy thereby causing loss of life and property and starvation in the country.
Accordingly Kerlinger (1977) a theory is a set of interrelated constructs propositions and concepts that presents a systematic view of phenomenon by specifying relations among variables with the purpose of explaining and predicting the phenomena. Thus having said these, among all the theory and paradigms drafted by various school of thoughts over the years, the focus therefore is on the labour unrest and underdevelopment, its impact and effects on the countries economy.
In accordance with the research questions and founded on empirical verification deduced from the research study hypotheses thus:
i. Public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria.
ii. Underdevelopment appears to be a correspondence of labour unrest in Nigeria.
iii. Dialogue and collective bargaining seem to be a veritiable alternative to labour unrest in Nigeria
1.8 Methods of Data Collection and Analysis
The method of data collection used in this research study is the secondary source which is also known as documentation due to the spontaneous nature of the issue under investigation. We gathered information from library, textbooks, articles, magazine, journals, internet services and printout etc which are relevant to the study.
The framework of content analysis is what we adopted due to the fact that it will aid us in giving better appreciable acknowledgment to the study and make us knowledgeably acquainted to the subject under analysis.
1.9 Scope and Limitations of the Study
The scope of this research work is quite wide and broad that it encompasses the investigation of “labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria” An appraisal from 2000 – date. This is because of the spontaneous nature.
The scope is hinged on what have been noted from time immemorial to present in the main sub-heading of this research work. Furthermore, notable reference though is on the already listed statement of problem and hypothesis which would be used in the continuation of the research work up till the point of arriving at the conclusion and preferred recommendations of this research work.
As regards to the limitation of this study, we would point out that there were indeed limited documented materials on the issue and the factors of it being timely in conjunction with financial impediments or constraints, time and numerous academic work in campus. However,
it was obvious that the prevailing unrest was at its peak at the time of this research.
1.10 Definition of Terms
This term that have been carefully selected for definition in this research work are those that are related to the course of study and those terms which also have ambiguous meaning, here an attempt is made to give clarity on their usage in this research work.
Underdevelopment: Liberal and Marxist scholars contend underdevelopment in terms of retardation, primitivity and backwardness or simply the lack of development for which the later view it as a man made process while the former connotes it as an internal variables and not external factors, which is occasioned by national and internal milieu.
Labour Unrest: This is a term used by employers or those generally in the business community to describe organizing and strike action undertaken especially when Government tends to implement policies not favorable to their members.
Labour Union: This are group of people who come together in line with their profession or career with the sole aim of protecting their interest through influencing Government policies through strike actions and protest.
Development: According to the liberal view implies change which “often follows a well ordered sequence and exhibits common characteristics across countries or what Michael Todaro calls series of successive stages of transformation.
Development according to the Marxist perspective is a dimensional process as Walter Rodney encapsulated that development. In human society is a many sided process.
Strikes: This is a refusal to work organized by a body of employees as a form of protest typically in an attempt to gain a concession or concessions. Thus it’s a work stoppage undertaken in support of a bargaining position or in protest of some aspect of a previous agreement or proposal agreement between labour unions and the management or the Government.
Government: This is an institution rules and administration of state authority. Thus it’s a group of people that governs a state. It sets and administers public policy and exercises executive political and sovereign power through customs, institution and laws within a state.
A Government can be classified into many types: democracy, republic, monarchy, aristocracy dictatorship are just to mention but a few.
Protest: This is a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection to something or to affirm in a public or formal manner to declare solemnly to a vow.
Deregulation: This is the removal of government control from an industry or sector to allow for free and efficient market place. Thus it’s the reduction or elimination of government power in a particular industry usually enacted to create more competition within the industry.
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