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ABSTRACT The paper will be examining the developments in the Nigerian Trade Union movement and the International Trade Union Movement. Because capital is concentrated social power, in a context in which the worker has only his individual labour power, it is considered imperative for workers to be united in confronting the enormous power of capital. This can be done through the collective effort of the Nigerian Trade Union Movement and their international counterparts. INTRODUCTION “Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to loose but your chain”. That was the clarion call of Karl Marx and his comrade with collaboration of Friedrich Engels in ending the communist manifesto of 1848. That call was based on the enormity of the task before workers in the struggle between labour and capital, not just within the workplace but also in the general class struggle to overthrow the yoke of capital. Because capital is concentrated social power, in a context in which the worker has only his individual labour power, it is considered imperative for workers to be united in confronting the enormous power of capital. According to Lozovsky (1972), the only social force possessed by the workers is their numerical strength. This force, however, is impaired by the absence of unity. It is in the same vein that Allan Flanders (1972) argues that the unity of workers makes the trade union a complete organization and constitutes the foundation of the union’s strength. Nigeria’s trade unions movement has a rich history. It took part in the anticolonial struggle and also contributed to the fight against military dictatorship. Since the beginning of democracy in 1999, the labour movement has acted as the guardian of the interests of the poor. In the early November 2006, 1,700 delegates from 156 countries met in Vienna for an event unprecedented in the history of the international trade union movement. They dissolved two globally operating and competing international confederations – the international confederation of free Trade Unions
(ICFTU) and the denominationally oriented world confederation of labour (WCL) and founded the international trade union confederation (ITUC) comprising 304 affiliated federations in 156 countries in which 168million workers are organized across the world. Congress delegates were firmly convinced that the globalization of political institutions and the globalization of business and markets must be followed by the globalization of trade union. MEANINGS OF TRADE UNION Trade union has attracted variety of definitions from scholars. Definitions depend on the perception of workers and the definition imposed by legal framework of a particular country. According to Akpala (1982) the exact definitions of trade union may vary from one situation to another depending on the economic and political situation encompassing the worker – management relations. The Nigerian Labour law Section 1 of Sub section 1 Trade Union Act No 31 of 1973 defines Trade Unions any combination of workers or employers whether temporary or permanent, the purpose of which is to regulate the terms and conditions of employment of workers whether the combination in question would not apart from this act be an unlawful combination by reason of its purpose or any of its purpose be in restraint of trade and whether its purpose do not include provision of benefits for its members. Another definition is “an association of wage or salary earners formed with the object of safe guarding and improving the wage and employment conditions of its members and to raise members’ social status and standards of living in the community” (Fajana, 2000), Also, Sidney and Beatrice Webb (1920) defined Trade Union as a continuous association of wage earners for the purpose of maintaining or improving the condition of their working lives. BRIEF BACKGROUND / TRADE UNION MOVEMENT IN NIGERIA The origin of trade union movement in Nigeria could be traced to the precolonial period. At this time, there existed guilds, mutual aid groups and professional or occupational craft unions all of which function to play the role of trade union. However, these associations are not in the modern sense of its full fledged trade union. Rather, most of them are merely workers association (Otobo, 1987:12). The inception of modern trade unions in Nigeria could be said to coincide with colonialism. Consequently, the first set of trade unions were modeled after British
unions. Unlike the situation in most developed countries, trade union preceded industrialization in Nigeria. The organized trade union movement in Nigeria dates back to 1912 when the workers in the Southern Nigerian Civil Service under the then colonial administration organized themselves into workers representatives. This then became known as the Nigeria Civil Service Union (NCSU) in 1914. This became a pivot with which workers in other sectors began the agitation for the formation of Trade Unions before and after independence in 1960. At this period, trade union could not take the pattern of radical organization because of the paternalistic nature of colonial government which is the largest employer of public labour. Other unions which emerged during this period were the Nigeria Native Staff Union (NNSU), Nigerian Union of Railway men, Nigerian Mechanics Union and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT). It was in 1938 that the Trade Unions Ordinance was enacted which provided legal backing for trade unions. By 1975 during the military regime of General Murtala Mohammed, Trade Union in the country have risen to over 1,000 which include Mushroom Unions. In 1976, the Federal Government established a commission of inquiry into the activities of the various unions and appointed an administrator to administer the unions and come up with a structure for the proper administration of the unions. This became necessary as the Unions were polarized into ideological divide which was creating problems in the country. Towards the end of 1977, these Unions were restructured into 42 along industrial line. The government also insisted on the formation of a labour centre as there were various multiple centres. In February 1978, the Nigeria Labour Congress was formed and inaugurated. The then 42 Industrial Unions became affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress with a legal backing of Trade Union (Amendment) Decree 22 of 1978. Several reasons have been given to explain the apparent late arrival of trade unionism in Nigeria. • Limited wage employment: Since the largest proportions of the citizens are engaged in the informal work sector, the few wage earners are colonial employers and these are restricted to the colonial officers as well as related parastatals.
Low level of economic activities which limited the recruitment into the formal economy and hence membership of trade union. The repressive colonial labour policy also contributed to the late entry of effective trade unionism in Nigeria. The colonial administration regarded trade unions as destabilizing activities. Consequently, it took measures to discourage its employees from membership of these groups.
Low consciousness of the worker as to the need of unionism. Absence of legal backing also impeded the early realization of Trade Union in Nigeria. However, with time these obstacles were overcome and this paved the way for
the emergence of trade unionism in the country. For instance, the emergence of small indigenous and large multi-national companies broke the monopoly of public sector employment in the country. The influence of neighbouring countries like Sierra Leone and Ghana also helped to boost the tempo of trade unionism in Nigeria. This factor for instance led to the enactment of Trade Union Ordinance in 1938 which gave legal backing to trade unions in the country, The Second World War also played important role in the growth of trade union in Nigeria. The war brought untold hardship to the workers and the general public in form of acute shortage of essential commodities, rise in prices, stagnant wage structure (Otobo 1987:21). These problems pushed many workers into joining trade unions which was seen as the only forum for improving their bad economic condition. Union agitation during the period led to the introduction of Cost Of Living Allowance (COLA) as well as the first general strike in the country in 1945 with the participation of about 42,000 workers (Fajana, 1995:146). The war heightened the socio-political consciousness of the workers. The Nigeria Labour Congress [NLC] was formally constituted as the only national federation of trade unions in the country in 1978. Before then, four labour centres existed. These are Nigeria Trade Union Congress [NTUC], Labour Unity Front [LUF], United Labour Congress [ULC] and Nigeria Workers Council [NWC]. The emergence of the NLC ended decades of rivalry and rancor involving the four centres and unions affiliated to them. The unions, numbering over 1,000 were also restructured into 42 industrial unions. The organization has had a chequered history, surviving two instances of dissolution of its national organs and consequent appointment of state administrators.
The first was in 1988 under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. Congress' opposition to the anti-people Structural Adjustment Programme incensed the military administration to take over the NLC. The second military intervention was in 1994 during the regime of General Sani Abacha, whose government also became fed up with the labour movement's agitation for the restoration of democracy. Like the initial case, the military government dissolved NLC's National Executive Council and appointed a Sole Administrator. The same treatment was meted to the two unions in the oil and gas industry National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers [NUPENG] and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria [PENGASSAN]. However, the administrators apparently added a further brief which plundered the finances of Congress and the two unions. The dissolution exemplified the travails of Congress, its leadership, affiliates and state councils, under military rule. Arbitration, prolonged and unlawful detention of labour leaders, invasion and disruption of union meetings, seminars and other activities of Congress and its components by security forces and a vicious anti-labour campaign by the state generally marked the period. The military also invoked its legislative prerogatives to unleash all manner of legislation to check the activities of unions. For instance, under General Abacha, a decree that banned a section of the movement from holding leadership position in Congress came into effect. However, with the death of General Abacha, the unions reclaimed Congress, culminating in a National Delegates Conference held on January 29, 1999. The leadership led the NLC from 1999 - February 2007 with another delegate conference was held on February 2007, the current leadership was elected - Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar - President FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION & THE RIGHTS OF WORKERS TO BARGAIN COLLECTIVELY Union preference is integral to the rights of workers to freedom of association and the right to organize collectively for the purposes of bargaining. This is codified in the ILO Conventions especially convention No 87, freedom of association and the rights to organize (1948) and convention No 98, Rights to organize and collective bargaining (1949), Any infringement of the rights of union members and workers under freedom of association is an encroachment on workers ‘rights to collective bargaining in the workplace. The Federal Government is obliged under international 5
law by ILO Conventions 87 and 98 to ensure that national laws governing the labormanagement relationship guarantee that the discrete interests of employers and employees are underwritten. This obligation requires legislation to guarantee, first, the right of employees to establish and join organizations of their own choosing, second, protection for employees against acts of anti-union discrimination, and third, the promotion of collective bargaining and effective collective representation (ILO 1987:4). TRADE UNION POLICY IN NIGERIA There has been serious shortcomings in the application and enforcement of core labour standards, particularly with regard to the lack of trade union rights of workers including the right to strike, discrimination and child labour,". The labour policy of 1999 wanted to checkmate NLC which Abubakar also consented with. The decree deaffiliated Nigeria trade union from the international body except to those related to Nigeria which is an act of absolutism in Abacha’s regime. In October 2004, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) was arrested during a general strike despite the fact that the action was "an entirely legitimate exercise of the collective rights of the trade union movement,” Though released, the NLC leader faced criminal charges in an Abuja High Court while police raided his house and office on several occasions. Nigeria's new Trade Union Amendment Act 2005, the Trade Union Amendment Act was passed in March 2005. It retains the NLC as a central labour union but gives other trade unions the freedom to federate and form umbrella unions and makes union membership voluntary. While such freedom is in principle to be welcomed, it was widely believed that one of its main aims was to weaken the cohesion and unity of the trade union movement and in particular the Nigeria Labour Congress. The Nigeria Labour Congress which was hitherto the only central labour organization in the country opposed vehemently to the 2005 Amendment Act. It was argued that the law was principally enacted to de-register the NLC, reduce its power and control in labour as well as to check the rising profile of labour as a stiff opposition to the Federal Government most especially when it takes any unpopular labour policies. The Amendment Act outlawed strikes and lock-outs of workers and it empowered the Minister of Labour and Productivity to register or de-register any union or central labour organization. The trade union amendment act of 2005 broke the monopoly of the Nigeria Labour Congress. The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress are now the only parallel central labour organizations in 6
Nigeria and they are to represent the workers at the tripartite bodies. This recent adoption still fails to address adequately problems identified with regard to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike and anti-union policies." The new Act was said to aim at curbing the right to strike and at weakening the Nigerian Labour Congress. The Act had been presented without adequate consultations through the tripartite labour review set up with assistance of the International Labour Organization (ILO), contrary to what had been promised. Furthermore, trade union rights were restricted in Export Processing Zones and strikes prohibited in such zones for a period of ten years, which is directly contrary to ILO conventions. The ICFTU and the NLC considered that, "in view of the seriousness of these problems, there is need for a much stronger commitment to social dialogue by the federal government of Nigeria in order to achieve a culture of constructive engagement of labour over policies and governance issues." It was also imperative to abrogate the Public Order Act, which compels organizations to seek a permit from the Police before any assembly, the unionists said. The law gives the Commissioners of Police latitude to refuse to issue such a permit or to break up assemblies convened without one. As such permits are invariably denied, the right to assembly provided for by Nigeria's Constitution and the right to freedom of association "cannot be meaningful as long as this law still exists," ICFTU said. This is absolute domination of the government over trade union in Nigeria. Discrimination in employment and wages persist in Nigeria. Surveys had showed a wage gap between men and women and a highly segregated labour market. Few women are employed in the formal economy due to social discrimination in education and training and to a gender-based division of labour in the formal economy. Moreover, Nigeria's Minimum Wage Act was excluding many workers, in particular those groups where women are disproportionately represented such as parttime workers and seasonal agricultural workers, the report found. Child labour is still widespread in Nigeria, and it was estimated in 2003 by the ILO and the government that 15 million children are working, of which up to 40 percent is said to be at risk of being trafficked for forced labour, forced prostitution and armed conflict. 6 million children do not attend school and 2 million work more than 15 hours per day. Many children were also trafficked into Nigeria for the purpose of forced labour, according to the same sources. Several child slave camps exist in the western states of Nigeria, where children are used as slaves in mining and on rubber 7
plantations, the trade unionists complained. The former president, Obasanjo has at its peak decentralized Nigeria trade union complemented with the 2005 act which makes trade union in Nigeria grow at a slow pace.
THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK MARXIST APPROACH Karl Marx was in many respects the most influential political theorist of the 19th century. He sought to combine factual analysis and political prescription in a thorough survey of the modern economic system. Ageing that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of the class struggles,” and that liberal governments and ideology were merely agents of the exploiting owners of property. Marx advocated the abolition of private property and predicted the demise of capitalization after a sense if receiving crises. The abolition of property and therefore of class exploitation would make possible a situation in which individual will contribute according to their abilities and take according to their needs. The state, following a transitional period in which the working class would rule, would eventually wither away. Marx’s view of human history is both profoundly pessionistic and profoundly optimistic. Its pessimision has in his belief that history reflects the oppression of the many by a small minority, who thereby secure economic and power. It is optimistic on two counts. First, Marx Believed that technical innovations bring about new ways of meeting human needs and make it increasingly possible for people to satisfy their deepest wants and to develop and perfect their individual capacities. Second, Marx claimed to have proved that the long history of oppression would soon end when the masses rise up and usher in a revolution that will create a classless utopian society. PLURALIST APPROACH Classical pluralism is the belief that politics and decision making is located mostly in the governmental framework, but many on governmental groups are using their resources to exert influence. The central question for classical pluralism is how power is distributed in western democracies. Groups of individuals try to minimize their interests. Lines of conflict are multiple and shifting. There may be inequalities but 8
they tend to be distributed and evened out. Any change under this view will be slow and incremental as groups have different interest and may act as “veto groups” to destroy legislation that they do not agree with .The existence of diverse and competing interests is the basis for a democratic equilibrium and is crucial for obtaining of goals by individuals. Pluralists stress civil rights, such as freedom of expression and organization and an electoral system with at least two parties. On the other hand, since the participants in this process constitute only a tiny fraction of the populace, the public acts mainly as bystanders. This is not necessarily undesirable: political issues require continuous and expert attention which the average citizens do not have. The important theorists of pluralism are Robert. A. Dahl and Seymour Martins Lipset. TRADE UNIONISM UNDER MILITARY RULE Nigeria’s history is benefit with contrasting political climate. Since independence in 1960 the country has been under military dictatorship for twentynine years while democratic rule span for the remaining account for the remaining years. The long years of military rule has had its impact on the nation’s trade unionism and workers struggle in the country. In view of the dictatorial tendency of such military administration, trade unions have a herculean task in responding to policies and unpopular programmes of such regimes. The first challenge posed to trade unions is with regards to how they can mobilize the members to agitate against unpopular and repressive programmes of military administration. Trade union movement in Nigeria attained its highest crescendo of activities during Military dictatorship. While trade union activities were heightened under previous military regimes of General Gowon (1967-1975), General Muritala/Obasanjo (1976-1979), General Buhari /Idiagbon (1984-1986), Gen Babangida (1986-1993) it was during Gen. Babangida’s regime that witnessed active involvement of trade unions in the struggle both for the improvement in the living standard of members and restoration of democratic rule. For example in 1992, there was widespread discontent in the country in which citizens were harassed, repressed and hungry (Akinyanju, 1997). Wages were generally low, however, the leadership of the Central Labour organization (NLC) were collaborators of the military junta, hence could not monster any resistance against the Military government. It was against this background that the ASUU embarked on a nation-wide strike in 1992 to advance the improvement of 9
the working condition of its members. The high level of poverty among members fostered unity of purpose among members. The strike was largely successful in terms of total participation of members and the military Government was forced to negotiate with the union. During Gen. Babangida’s regime (1986-1993) trade unions were able to mobilize their members to protest against the negative effects of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the government. The protest led to the introduction of some relief measures meant to caution the effect of economic policy on the citizens. Such relief measures include wages and salaries increment. Also, the experience of the struggle towards revalidation of true annulled June 12, 1993 Presidential election is another instance of workers struggle during military era. MKO Abiola won a decisive victory however, on June 23 Babangida using several pending law suits as a pretence annulled the election throwing Nigeria to turmoil. More than 100 were killed in riots before Babangida agreed to hand power to an interim government on August 27, 1999. With the country sliding into chaos Defense Minister Sani Abacha assumed power and forced the interim Government headed by Ernest Shonekan a prominent nonpartisan businessman who was meant to rule from august 27 1993 to February 1994 when elections were scheduled for to hand over power to him in November 17, 1993. Abacha dissolved all democratic institutions and replaced elected governors with military officers. On June , 1994, Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola declared himself president and went into hiding until his arrest on June 23, in response, petroleum workers (NUPENG and PENGASSAN) called a strike demanding that Abacha release Abiola and hand over power to him. Other unions joined the strike, bringing economic life around Lagos and the southwest to a standstill. After calling off a threatened strike in July the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) reconsidered a general strike in August after the Government imposed conditions on Abiola’s release. On August 17, 1994 the government dismissed the leadership of the NLC and the Petroleum Unions, placed the union under appointed administrators and arrested Frank Kokori and labor leaders. After assuring power in June 1998, the Abubakar government took steps towards restoring workers rights and freedom of association for trade unions, which had deteriorated seriously under Abacha and even implemented a civil service pay rise and other reforms.
Trade unions also performed the role of sensitizing its members and the general public against government repressive programmes such as increment in petroleum price. Past experiences have shown that on each occasion government desires to effect change in fuel prices, trade unions have played significant role in mobilizing its members and the general public on the need to resist such action. From the preceding discussion, one could observe that the activities of trade union movement in Nigeria were heightened during military role. The dictatorial climate provided by Military regimes has the effect of pushing trade unions towards increasing militancy. Such undemocratic government could not tolerate active unionism and hence had to resort to intimidation, repression through arrest of union leaders and outright bar of radical unions. These actions in return further fuelled radicalism on the part of the unions. TRADE UNIONISM UNDER DEMOCRATIC RULE Ironically, though the succeeding post colonial administration inherited the fear, suspicious and hatred for labour from its predecessor. Trade union activities were regarded by government as destabilizing to the interest of the state. Hence, right from the First Republic (1960 – 1966) the posture of government has been to regard trade union with suspicion and therefore took various measures to decapitulate the unions. This deliberate action of the Nigeria government has resulted into state intervention in trade union movement in what is regarded as the principle of “guided democracy” (Olugboye, 1996). A significant instance of trade union activities towards enhancement of workers welfare under democratic role was in 1981 under the regime of Alhaji Shehu Shagari when trade unions successfully mobilize their members for general strike which forced the government to increase the monthly minimum wage to N125.00. The prevailing democratic atmosphere during this period enabled the unions to pursue its goal of improving the working lives of members through struggle for wage increase. During the current political dispensation, trade unions have had cause to mobilize members to embark on concerted actions aimed at resisting unpopular government programmes. For instance, since 1999 when democratic rule was restored in the country, the Federal Government has severally increased the pump price of petroleum products. On each of these instances, the Central Labour Congress had to 11
mobilize the workers for strike against the policy. However, this did not go well with the government which responded by enacting what is now popularly known as antiLabour Legislation – the labour bill of 2005. The law among other things seeks to decentralize the labour union in the country. INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION MOVEMENT Among the pioneers of international co-operation were the International Trade Secretariats (ITS). They were renamed, in 2002 as GUFs – Global Union Federations. GUFs are worldwide federations of unions that unite workers based on industry, craft or occupation. Amongst the very first pioneers were British, French and other European trade unionists, whose cooperation resulted in the establishment of the International Workingmen's Association in 1864. This "First International", which also grouped the several political factions, supplied some concrete support in several industrial disputes over its short lifespan. The first enduring international trade union organizations, independent from the political groupings, were established in 1889, when the International Federation of Boot and Shoe Operatives, the International Federation of Tobacco Workers and the International Typographical Secretariat were created. Several others were formed in the late 19th century and, by 1914, 33 of them had been established. In the beginning, they were fairly informal structures, cooperating on a practical level with exchange of information on the craft, trade or industry, helping travelling journeymen, and discouraging the international transport of strike-breakers. Around 1900, they had already enlarged their co-operation to areas such as organizational assistance, international strike support and international standard setting. The first international trade union organization composed of national centres grew out of a conference in 1901, where the most important European national trade unions decided to create an international body. First established as the International Secretariat of Trade Union Centres, the organization was renamed in 1913, becoming the International Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU). The period between the wars was one of name changes, the establishment and disappearance of new international organizations, and schisms. Following the Second World War, the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) was established. In 1949, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) was founded, largely by national trade union centres that had left the WFTU over the issue of Communist domination of that organization. The WFTU remained in existence, but lost most of 12
its membership after the changes in Central and Eastern Europe in the 1990s. The ICFTU, which is based on the principle that legitimate unions must be controlled by their members and not by governments, employers or political parties, is now by far the largest international trade union confederation. There is also the World Confederation of Labour (WCL), a relatively small organization based on Christian social principles. Also in the immediate post-war period (1948), a body was created to represent trade unions in connection with recovery programmes in Europe. This organization later became the Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC). There have been several major shifts in global power relations between social forces in the last century. There are two most important to consider in this discussion because they have directly shaped our thinking and our experience. The first happened in the late 1940s and was a consequence of World War II; the second happened forty years later and this is what we are referring to when we talk about globalization. At the end of World War II, unions were in strong position politically and industrially. In the three or four decades following World War II, power relationships had been negotiated basically at national level where the power of capital was limited by national legislation and by dependence on domestic markets. The ground started shifting under our feet in the 1980s. The end of the Cold War coincided broadly speaking, with the end of the post war economic boom. Mass unemployment started appearing in the industrialized countries in the early 1980s after the first “oil stock” of 1974; the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 and the USSR was dissolved in 1991. At the same time in little over ten years, the world economy underwent a fundamental change moving from an aggregate of national economies linked together by a network of trade, investment and credit to an integrated, borderless global economy. In the global labour market, workers of all countries have been compelled to compete against each other with huge wage spreads ranging from one to one hundred. Workers in all industrialized countries in Europe, North America and Japan have experienced outsourcing and relocating to low wage countries in the last fifteen years. But now, even workers in low wage countries are experiencing job losses to lowest wage countries: Mexico, Central America, South East Asia and Eastern Europe are losing jobs to China. In every country, employers are telling workers the same thing: take pay cuts and work longer hours. A whole new vocabulary has been created 13
“Reform” used to mean progress. Today it means social regression: cuts in benefits, dismantling of social protection. Workers’ rights and union contracts are referred to as “labour market rigidities” and introducing “flexibility” means dismantling such rights. The American Business Magazine’s Business week is asking itself if the world is not becoming “one grant global labour pool” which has started to affect white collar and professional jobs in the United States so far not threatened by international job competition. But the article says, “As low-wage countries developed the ability to produce things such as apparel, electronics and textiles, American in those industries found themselves competing with people who’ll work for a tenth of their pay. Labour in Western Europe is facing the same problem. Germany for example, like other West European countries, lost much of its textile and consumer-electronics industry to Eastern Europe and Asia in the 1980s and 1990s. The big picture is therefore that transnational capital has emancipated itself from society and can seek ever-increasing profits where it pleases. It does so in the name of competition but it has redefined the terms of competition: a profit rate of 5 percent used to be considered as satisfactory; the benchmark rate is now 15 percent and any production unit that fails to meet this target risks closure. INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNION POLICY By the existence of the Trade Union Acts , certain social welfare provisions and a small amount of health and safety legislation and legislation dealing with conditions of employment. During the 1960s and 1970s a number of statutes were enacted, covering issues such as unfair dismissal, redundancy (the first Act in this area was passed in 1967), sex discrimination, maternity leave and so forth. Since then, there have been further interventions in the area of individual employment rights: the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and the Worker Protection (Regular Part-time Employees) Act 1991 ; and the Industrial Relations Act 1990 , which dealt with collective labour law, regulating the conduct of industrial action as well as changing the structure of the principal institution of dispute resolution, the Labour Court qualified a little by the existence of the Trade Union Acts , certain social welfare provisions and a small amount of health and safety legislation and legislation dealing with conditions of employment. However, during the 1960s and 1970s a number of statutes were enacted, covering issues such as unfair dismissal, redundancy
(the first Act in this area was passed in 1967), sex discrimination, maternity leave and so forth. Since then, there have been further interventions in the area of individual employment rights: the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 1989 and the Worker Protection (Regular Part-time Employees) Act 1991; and the Industrial Relations Act 1990, which dealt with collective labour law, regulating the conduct of industrial action as well as changing the structure of the principal institution of dispute resolution, the Labour Court. The voluntarism type of policy is still adopted till date as Labour Party is still participating in political affairs of the states. Legal regulations are followed strictly and fundamental human right not compromised which strengthens trade unionism. DIVERSITY OF INTERNATIONAL UNIONS Labour law varies from country to country as does the functions of unions. For example, in Germany only open shops are legal; that is all discrimination based on union membership is forbidden. This affects the function and services of the union. In addition, German unions have played a greater role in management decisions through participation in corporate boards and co-determination than have unions in the United State. Before going on with our work, it will be necessary to make clarification of terms/ concepts. • • A closed shop (US) or a ‘pre-entry closed shop’ (UK) employs only people who are already union members. A union Shop (US) or a ‘post-entry closed shop (UK) employs non-union workers as well, but sets a time limit within which new employees must join a union. • • An agency shop requires non-union workers to pay a fee to the union for its services in negotiating their contract. An open shop does not require union membership in employing or keeping workers. Where a union is active, workers who do not contribute to a union still benefit from the collective bargaining process. In Britain, a sense of laws introduced during the 1980s by Margret Thatcher’s government restricted close and union shops. In Western Europe, professional associations often carry out the functions of a trade union. In these cases, they may be negotiating for white collar workers such as physicians, engineers or teachers. 15
Typically such trade unions refrain from politics or pursue a more or do liberal politics than their blue collar counterparts. REBUILDING THE MOVEMENT We do not now have the kind of international labour movement that is capable of meeting the challenges of globalization. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) sees itself largely as a political lobby with the international institutions on what has been described as “the increasingly bizarre assumption that such instances would be influenced by being lobbied by union institutions with decreasing weight and power and with virtually no presence in the dominant or alternative public spheres intentionally”. The main problem of all international labour organizations however, is that they have remained in fact loose associations of national unions which think and react in national terms, at a time when capital is international and thinks and acts globally. They are unable to develop a common strategy, only a lowest common denominator. THE ROLE OF INTERNATIONAL TRADE UNIONS Starting with the TUCN in 1942, the organisation sent representatives to 1949 London conference of the WFTU, hitherto comprising both eastern and western trade unions. Following accusations and counter accusations on the ideological leaning of the world body, the conference split in two. This split gave birth to the ICFTU and both organisations have propagated the east-west ideological perspectives until the collapse of the ideological divisions in the late 1980s. It should be stated that there was the rampant shifting of ideological positions by Nigerian unionists who naturally raised doubts about the genuineness or seriousness of the ideological division. It therefore appears that a major contributing factor to disunity was the fact that virtually all the central labour organizations of the 1960s and 1970s derived most of their finances from international trade unions. According to well documented investigation of the internal affairs of the central trade unions of 1976, they were virtually financed by external bodies. The tribunal also revealed that apart from cash grants, other assistance in form of materials and vehicles and sponsorship of such projects as the Trade Union Institute for Economic and Social Development by the African – American Institute were given to Nigerian Unions.
Throughout the colonial period and up to the early 1970s, the response of the Government had in general reflected the voluntary policy. While the government was well aware of the divisive consequences of international trade union affiliation, neither the colonial government nor the post-independence civilian administration was willing to intervene because of a commitment to the ILO’s convention on freedom of association. On the other hand, the government had on occasion encouraged the activities of the international trade unions particularly in the area of labour education. GLOBALIZATION AND TRADE UNION This globalization is a challenge for workers and their trade unions. There is the pressure put on governments to deregulate and, increasingly, to abdicate their role. A nation-centered system with national social and economic policies helped to create a degree of social justice and economic equity. This nationally based approach has come under severe pressure. Due to the diminished role of national institutions, there has been a certain shift towards the world level, but without an international frame work and institutions in place that can deal effectively with issues of justice and equity. An additional challenge for trade unions is the changing nature of the employer. In a world where capital is much more mobile than workers, different forms of business organization and relationships have been created which can shift employment and threaten collective bargaining relationships, including the introduction of new management methods, sometimes “best practice”, but too often “worst practice”, and the threat to relocate to countries with lower social or environmental standards and no independent trade unions. New forms of work organization have been established as well as changes in the employment relationship. A long list of examples can be given such as outsourcing, subcontracting, contract labour and various other forms of precarious employment. Globalization has also helped to extend the market and the responsibility for goods produced under extreme forms of exploitation such as child labour or forced labour. Because of these changes, one of the fundamental goals of organized labour, taking workers’ rights out of competition by establishing fundamental common standards, is under direct attack. Even with the emergence of corporate social responsibility as the latest fashion, competitiveness and flexibility are still the main objectives for most of the enterprises in the global environment. They put workers into increasingly fierce competition with 17
each other, put pressure on social safety nets, and, at times, effectively undermine workers’ rights that were won through many years of struggle. With the advent of globalization, there had been a decrease of trade union density, increase of the informal sector (most of the workers employed in the informal sector are women and children), increase of atypical forms of labour (contract labour), global attack against workers’ rights, strikes repressed by employers or the police, trade unionists harassed, arrested, detained, killed or “disappeared” . some employee were dismissed because of their trade union activities, unequal pay where women are paid anything between 10-50% less than men for doing similar job or different job of equal value while numerous women and children becomes victims of cross-border human trafficking, and fundamental human rights compromised. TRADE UNION RIGHTS AND INTERNATIONAL LABOUR ORGANIZATION (ILO) STANDARDS The International Labour Organization (ILO) is based in Geneva and is the major international body dealing with labour and labour related issues. It is also the only body in the UN system that is tripartite, with representation of workers, employers, and governments. From the beginning, it was recognized that interference in markets is necessary to protect rights from the village to the world. Legislative protections in such areas as wage and working hours laws, health and safety protection, and other labour standards are such “interference”. So are collective bargaining agreements. Both attempt to create a system of competition that is not based on exploitation of workers. Globalization, without mechanisms to support fundamental workers’ rights, can put workers back into competition and lead to a race to the bottom, as countries reduce wages, taxes, welfare benefits and other social or environmental protections to make themselves more competitive. The fundamental concern of the trade union movement has been the struggle to secure the right of workers to form and join independent trade unions and to bargain collectively with their employer. This is the very basis of trade union organization and is still its highest priority. Defending trade unions and trade union rights under attack from any government is a main activity for the international trade union movement The most important trade union rights are defined in the ILO conventions No. 87 on freedom of association and No. 98 on the right to collective bargaining. International trade union organizations have been fighting since their inception to get these rights recognized 18
by all governments and employers. Conventions No. 87 and No. 98 are integral parts of what is needed to combat the excesses of globalization: a strong set of labour standards securing the principal labour rights that can be used to confront the social actors with their responsibilities.
ILO DECLARATION ON FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES AND RIGHTS AT WORK The International Labour Conference, at its 86th Session in 1998, adopted a declaration on workers’ rights based on the fundamental conventions of the ILO, the principles of which governments are considered obligated to respect by virtue of their ILO membership. The eight main ILO labour conventions on which the new Declaration is based are: No. 87 and 98 on the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining, No. 29 and 105 on the abolition of forced labour, No. 100 and 111 on the prevention of discrimination in employment and equal pay for work of equal value and No. 138 and 182 on child labour. The effective application of this Declaration would strengthen respect for workers’ rights and help reduce the negative effects of globalization. The ICFTU led the effort to create this Declaration and its follow-up procedure. ILO convention No. 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, adopted in 1948, has been ratified by over 140 countries. It declares: • That workers can establish and join organizations of their choice without prior agreement from the state. • That trade unions cannot be dissolved or suspended by the state. • That they are free to create federations and confederations, which, in turn, can affiliate at the international level. ILO convention No. 98 on the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining was adopted in 1949. Over 150 countries have ratified it. • It extends worker protection against acts of anti-union discrimination. • It encourages and protects the process of voluntary negotiation between workers and employer organizations to regulate terms and conditions of employment by means of collective agreements. • It does not deal with public servants “engaged in the administration of the State” who are covered by Convention 151 (1978).
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSION The preceding discussion has considered trade union movement in Nigeria and internationally and its impact on workers emancipation with a focus on varying political setting in the country and the emergency of the ITUC at the world levels. It reflects that Nigerian trade union movement has a long history beginning from the colonial era to the present day. The post colonial administration was seen to inherit the anti-labour policy of the colonial era. The military regime was considered to demonstrate harsher attitude towards trade union activities than the civilian administrations. However, both political environments were seen to pose serious challenges to trade union movement in the country. At the international sphere, the impact of globalization has allowed trade bodies internationally based to have affiliates in other countries. Also, it employs labour from different countries into their work force (though it is sometimes a form of cheap labour).
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