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By the 20th century in Nigeria, the system of production was purely traditional and payment for labour service were in kind, as the issue for monetary payment was not popular in the economy because there were no employment of labour, no payment of wage hence no organized labour to fight for interest of workers except that food and shelter were provided for the dependents by the head of the family units for the satisfaction of the basic needs.

During the 20th century with the ushering in of the commercial activities pursued by the colonial maters who needed the service of labourers for the raw materials they could find. Again, the colonial civil service starts employing indigenous workers, thereby increasing the culture of wages payment in Nigeria. Workers were recruited into organization like the post and telecommunication (P&T) Electrical cooperation of Nigeria (ECN) and other government agencies then come the laying of the railway line from Lagos to the northern Nigeria, with the attendant employment of Nigeria leading to the payment of wages. The increase in commercial activities and workers agitation led to the establishment of Nigeria civil service union (NCSU) in 1912 to fight for the better condition of service of civil servants of Nigeria.

From this period to 1938 when the trade union ordinance was enacted recognizing the formation of trade unions in Nigeria. Within this periods employee were relating with employers on individuals basis and not as a collective units. The existence of trade unions therefore allows the workers usually through their representatives to participate in determining the policies that affect their work environment, work now become formalized in the form of employment contract between the employees and the employers.

The parties were seen as equal. The employer who has invested his capital aims at maximizing profits. The workers on the other hand contribution their service, which if not remunerated falls into adject poverty. While the employer tries to maximize profit by if possible, exploit the workers, the workers on the other hand try to free himself from the exploitative hands of the employers. It is this divergent interest among the two opposing groups in an organization that leads to the formation of labour unions.

While employers are represented by management, workers are represented by their unions through their labour leaders. Unions are therefore, formed so that both parties can have working harmony. The relationship that exists between management and labour is what is called industrial relations.

The term, “Industrial Relations” has developed both a broad and a narrow meaning. Originally, industrial relations were broadly defined to include the totality of relationships and interactions between employers an employees. From the perspective, industrial relation covers all the aspects of the employment relationship, including human resource or personnel management employee relations and union management or (labour) relations. Since the mid twentieth century, however more restricted interpretation that largely equates it with unionized employment relationships. In this view, industrial relations pertains to the study and practice of collective bargaining, trade unionism and labour management relation.
Akpala (1984)defines industrial relations as: 
The regulation of employment relations by the employers management or their organization, the worker’s organization and the third party, private and/or government acting as an umpire of a controller, the purpose of which is joint decision making for establishing job rules and job values and for cooperation of the organizational objectives of the enterprise, the trade union and of course the state.

Yesufu (1982) in defining industrial relations according to the context of modern market and industrializing economics, see it as “the whole web of human interaction at which is predicated upon and arise out of the employment contracts”. This shows that industrial relations deal with negotiations between unions and employers and with government intervention in strikes and negotiations.

Ugwu (2006) defines it in the real academic term as:
The study of the rules governing employment together with the ways in which the rules are made and charged, interpreted and administered, in other words job regulation. It is also include the study of  trade unions, management, employers association and the public bodies concern with  the regulation of employment.
Each of these organizations has its own power, authority and vested interest. Any attempt to have conflicting options or interests amount to industrial conflict and when organization are in conflict situation government may apply pressure on each to pedal soft or make concessions.

The employers and their association are interested in optimizing their profit from fund invested, and increase in producing. This, they can be achieve through the efforts of the employees ad their unions, and in return compensate them  with wages, salaries and other fringe benefits for their contribution, loyalty and supportive roles.

For instance, the employers of labour of Federal Ministry of finance, Abuja, utilizes the services of their workers in order to improve the organization productivity. Employers in Nigeria have an umbrella association known as Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).

The Employees and Their Union
The employees and the union offer their service and expects the following in return, equitable wage/salary, protection of interest of the members, job security, safety and health measure and better conditions of employment.
On the other hand, Nigerian workers are represented by a body known as Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).
However, ever large organization has its own labour union, and can belong to Nigeria labour congress (NLC).

          Industrial disputes can be caused by the following factors:

  1. Wage related issues: This has been the strongest factor leading to industrial conflicts in Nigeria. Wage disputes cover such matters as demand for wage increases, failure to implement wage, increase agreements, deduction from wages and annual increments, payment while on strike etc.  
  2. Condition of service: These include dispute arising from demand for improved physical conditions with pay, greater job security. Provision of tools and uniforms, subsidize canteen service retirement schemes and medical facilities.
  3. Discipline: Dispute in this category have to do with suspension, interdiction, termination, dismissal retirement, redundancy, transfers and shifts. Such disputes may concern the grounds for action stake, the procedure adopted other fairness of such action.
  4. Violation or non implantation or agreement: Failure on the part of one party (especially managements)to implement in full, the terms of collective agreement is also another major cause of industrial dispute e.g. failure of the federal government to implement the FG–ASUU agreement of 1992, led to the declaration of industrial dispute by ASUU in 1996.
  5. Non recognition of union and anti-union such as intimidation of active union members and officials, non cooperation in operation check-off system, intervention in union affairs and so on, are also likely causes of disputes between labour and management. These problems lead to industrial strike action which affects the productivity of any organization negatively.

Federal Ministry of finance also encounter industrial relation problem due to unresolved conflict or dispute between the management and the unions like association of senior staff.

The major ways in which industrial discontent can be manifested are as follows: -

  1. Go slow: This is a deliberate restriction of output through a deliberate cut down on the pace of work.
  2. Work-to-rule: This is another variant of the go-slow. It implies that workers work at the normal pace with no additional effort put. It should normally guarantee at minimum efficiency, but in real life situations, it disorganizes efficiency.
  3. Sit-in workers virtually takeover the works premises and deny their employers the use of the premises and facilities. This puts the workers temporarily in  charge, and the employers have to bargain for accessibility into the  establishment.
  4. Overtime Ban: union members are restrained from working beyond normal official hours. This is often used by banks and it has a disruptive effect on efficiency and meeting of deadlines.
  5. Demonstration of picketing: This is a way of publicizing the existence of a trade dispute by workers. It usually involves carrying of placards and may also include public enlightenment lectures, and public demonstration aimed at attracting public sympathy and support.
  6. The strike: This is complete withdrawal of labour supply or the refusal workers to work so as to exert economic pressure on the employer in order to make the employer grant the trade union’s demands. The strike is the most popular manifestation of industrial dispute and is usually used as the most important measure of industrial conflict.  
  7. Lock – out: this is the employer’s equivalent of a workers strike and involves a complete closure of the establishment by the employers, thereby denying workers access to their workplace. It is aimed at exerting pressure from workers to accept the employer’s terms.

Strike and lockouts, however exert economic pressures not workers and employers in that while lose wages, employers also lose business.

Industrial disputes can be settled using two methods namely the internal or voluntary machinery and the external or statutory machinery. The dispute act of 1976 stipulates that any industrial dispute should first be settled under an internal or voluntary machinery (also known as grievance procedure). It is only when this fails that the parties can resort to the external or statutory procedure. Under the internal machinery, the aggrieved party (usually the worker), is expected to follow a step by step procedure already a put in place by the organization to resolve conflicts, without resorting to industrial action, however, if the internal machinery fails, the law provides  for third party intervention in the following ways.

  1. Mediation: This is process whereby a neutral third party, mutually agreed upon by the parties in the dispute, intervenes in an  attempt to settle the dispute. A mediator has no power to enforce a settlement, but can help in search for solutions, by making recommendations and working to open blocked channels of communication. However, if the dispute is not settled within 14days the appointment and intervention of the mediator, the minister of labour and productivity is notified. He then proceeds to appoints conciliator, for the purpose of setting the dispute.
  2. Conciliator: The law stipulates that the person as conciliator shall look into the causes and circumstances of the dispute, and through negotiation with the parties, attempts to effect a settlement, if a settlement is reached, representatives of sign a memorandum of the terms of settlement is reached, a report is made to the minister who, after 14 days of getting the report, refers the dispute to the industrial arbitration panel.
  3. Arbitration: Arbitrations a process in which a dispute is submitted to an impartial third party, the industrial arbitration panel (IAP), to make up of representatives of employers, workers and the government, with a legal expert as chairman. The IAP has 7 days to complete its work, but this period is often extended. If the award of the panel, on completion of its work is objected to by any of the parties in the dispute, the matter is referred to the national industrial court.
  4. National Industrial Court (NIC): The NIC was established by the trade dispute act of 1976. It consists of a president, who must have been a  judge of the high court or a practicing lawyer for at least 10 years, and  four other members who must be persons of good standing.

The NIC has exclusive jurisdiction to:

    1. Make award for the purpose of setting trade disputes.
    2. Determine questions relating to the interpretation of any collective agreement, and any award made by the IAP or by the court itself.
    3. Determine the terms of settlement of any memorandum following reconciliation.

Once the court makes its award, it is final and binding on the parties and no appeal can be made to any other body.


Industrial relation especially in Nigeria is faced with ....