PROJECT TOPIC- NIGERIAN LABOUR CONGRESS AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS FROM 1978 -1993
Labour is one of the factors of production in economic parlance, but assumes primary importance since it is the combination of all other factors of production1. According to A. Toffler, labour is the exertion of the human, mental and physical nature geared towards earning economic advantages, profits, rents, wages, commissions e.t.c2.
Also, Bryan A. Garner et al, see labour as “work for wages”3. Thence, having understood what labour is all about, it is important to relate it to labour movement for proper examination of the topic of discuss. Labour movement according to Edylue Ezenongaya, refers to “those who are structurally and conditionally positioned to look out only for wages or salaries through bargaining or exchange process with the owners and shareholders of the production enterprise”4. Bryan A. Garner et al, while using the word union, sees it as “an organisation formed to negotiate with employers, on behalf of the employees for salary, benefits, hours and working condition”5. Labour movement may not only aim towards salary or wage increment, but can have a wide range of interest which the union helps them achieve. So labour movement are people who are structurally organised (that is the workers) into an association in order to improve their lots.
In most developing countries of the world, the relationship between government and the labour unions are characterised by controversy. Even in the industrialised world, the labour in as much as they are unrelenting and committed in contributing to national development, remains sensitive and uncompromising in matter pertaining to welfare and good living. The broader development in the relationship between the employers and employees, and especially between government and labour union has its trace with the industrial revolution with the factory system of production, the growth of a proletariat and the development of trade union6.
Historically, anywhere in the world, organised labour often disagreed with those in power on a number of issues. What is different is the way a particular labour group or government has responded to issues of disagreement. In Nigeria, organised labour do not associate itself with any political party in government either at federal or state. But countries like South Africa, have labour centres linked to the ruling party; for instance, the Congress of South African Trade Union (COSATU) which is the trade union wing of the African National Congress.7 That notwithstanding, the union had series of counter-demonstrations against the ruling party (ANC). Likewise, in Great Britain, the labour party is currently in power. This notwithstanding, labour union still protested against several policies they consider inimical to them and the masses.
In Nigeria, there is no doubt that the attitude of labour towards government is as a result of what is obtainable in the country’s politico-economic system. What may now see as labour’s opposition role could be traced to the 1986 May Day speech, of the former President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ali Chiroma. During the President Olusegun administration, petroleum product prices were increased five times, from N22 in 1999 to N54.50k in 2004. and consistently, it is only labour that has stood up to fight for the people against the harsh policies of the government, not the then ruling People Democratic Party PDP, which has been emasculated, nor the opposition parties “which has been compromised and disorganised by sponsored crisis”.8
The government of Chief Obasanjo followed the development of Labour Union with every attention. The activities of the Labour Union to him was undemocratic”. But it is important to note that the government was not comfortable with what it termed the excesses of the Labour Union.
The work examines the Nigerian Labour Congress and government between 1978 to 1993. The starting period of 1978 was when Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) was formed while the terminal date of 1993 was the end Ibrahim Babangida rule as President of Nigeria.
PROJECT TOPIC- NIGERIAN LABOUR CONGRESS AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS FROM 1978 -1993
This research work adopts a multi-disciplinary approach. It uses both primary and secondary sources. The primary sources include oral interviews, and archival sources while the secondary sources include books, journals, newspapers etc.
In examining the topic of discourse, some works were review.
In P.E. Oribabor’s work titled Labour Relations labour unionism from Colonial era and its aftermath. He believes that since inception, there has been “a commitment to the principle of voluntarism or free collective bargaining”9 on the part of the labour. He contends that the government recognises Unionism, and that Government of Nigeria in 1955 confirmed it thus:
Government re-affirm its confidence in the effectiveness of voluntary negotiations and collective bargaining for the determination of wages.10
Oribabor, went further to affirm that:
The long term interest of government employers and trade unions alike would seem to rest on the process of consultation and discussion which is the foundation of democracy in the industry.11
In the book titled, Industrial Relations Crises in Nigeria, K.E. Nnabuife assessed the labour and management relationship, and blamed both the government and labour as part of the management as well as contributing in the industrial relation crisis in Nigeria. According to her, the Government has the final say and through various means caused infringed relationship between her and labour, such as poor planning and management of workers remunerations, unprecedented dismissal / retirement of workers, lack of interest in the welfare of workers and dehumanisation of union through legislations.12
In the book Contemporary Issues in Sociology, A.U. Nnoyelu blames the external source of industrial conflict on government. He declares that:
Government industrial and economic policies, nature of labour legislation, unpatriotic and unethical behaviour of political class, national economic mismanagement, general distribution of power and wealth in society, and national or global economic depression.13
This has directly and indirectly affected the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
T.M. Yesufu, x-rays the industrial conflict in Nigeria in his book tittled, The Dynamics of Industrial Relations, Heargues that the philosophy of voluntarism which reigned from colonial era characterised the First Republic of Nigeria. This was the ability of workers to “organise freely in setting and maintaining the condition of employment, minimum state interference with those forms and conditions and intervention in dispute on invitation or consent of parties involved”.14
In the book titled, Can Trade Union Survive,by S. Odinfa highlights the relationship between Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the then a civilian government of Obasanjo. The work contends the relationship symbolized the personalities of Adams Oshiomole, the then President of the Nigerian Labour Congress and Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government. He reveals the relationship between the two after 1999 as follows:
The relationship was so cordial that the newly installed government and unions negotiated within a short period, a 25 percent wage increase for public sector workers was agreed upon, while Chief Obasanjo held hands in a comradely style with Adams Oshiomole, who announced the deal at a May Day rally in 2000. 15
Adeolti Jan’s article titled, “Labour and Government face off”, examines the relationship between labour and government as friendly but reiterated that when the issue of any policy inimical to the plight of workers and masses are initiated by the government, such as hike in the price of fuel, labour usually demonstrates out the fiercest critic of government.16
Writing on Government and the Nigerian Labour Congress , I. Akereghe in an article posits that the strained nature of the government and NLC relationship was not unconnected with the former’s unconstitutional posture in dealing with certain national issues. This is because; the NLC has been famous for its stance especially towards certain popular acts of the government. 17 So the government sees NLC as a strong opposition.
Thus far, the above the above reviewed work are received and important on the topic being examined.