EXAMINING THE ROLE OF TRADE UNION TOWARDS SOLVING EMPLOYEE'S PROBLEMS IN NIGERIA
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Trade unions have an immense effect on labor markets and societies. The main objective of this thesis is to examine how trade unionism affects workers. The subject matter of trade unionism and workers in Nigeria is of interest to both the government and employers. Trade unionism, which is the activities of association of workers in a workplace have been accepted and recognized as a necessary action. A trade union can be simply defined as ‘an alliance of workers to strengthen their efforts in bargaining with their correspondents.’
Trade Unions are integral part of any organization. Whatever organization it may be, whether big or small, private or public, trade unions do exist to safeguard the interest of the employees working therein. A trade union also improves the living and the working conditions of the employees, Paragshir (2013). A trade union, like any other organization, emerges and grows in a definite environment. On one side the environment may either nurture or impede its growth and development trends.
On the other hand the organization might influence and shape the environment in which it carries out its functions. The dialectical relationship between an organization and its environment is therefore indispensable. The environment in this regard denotes the socio-economic, the legal and political contexts existing in the country at different times. These factors, by and large play a crucial role in influencing and shaping the behavioral patterns of trade unions. In order to attain a thorough understanding of the current trade union movement one need not negate the varying contexts in which the trade union movement originated and developed.
Prior to the coming of the colonial masters, organisations of people engaged in craft or trade have existed in Nigeria; these organisations could be referred to as trade unions because they were organised to regulate trade practices, to offer mutual aid and to fix prices –wages- for their services; such organisations included organisations of hunters, blacksmiths, carvers and weavers (Egboh, 1968; Ananaba, 1970). These organisations consisted of tradesmen and their children or other blood relatives -usually sons-, there were no employment contracts as known today as the children learned the trades and took over from their fathers (Fashoyin, 1980). The functions of these organisations some of which still existed today in the villages, included: settling of disputes, regulation of relationship between tradesmen, fixing of prices and organising the payment of tribute to the Oba – the King- (Lloyd, 1953).
Organised trade unions officially started on Monday 19 August 1912 in Nigeria when workers in the then civil service organised themselves into trade unions as was done in Sierra Leone (Egboh, 1968). One Mr Henry Libert – a Sierra Leonean- summoned a meeting of about thirty-three indigenous workers, and by the fifth meeting on 15 November 1912 after advice was received from Sierra Leone, the aim of the union was decided and this was to promote the welfare and interests of the indigenous workers of the Nigerian Civil Service (Okonkwo, 1993). It was known then as the Civil Service British Workers Union but later changed to the Nigerian Civil Service Union shortly before independent (Yesufu, 1982; Smock, 1969).
It remained an exclusive union of Africans of 1st class workers until the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. This brought about an astronomical rise in cost of living and the union had to seek the support of other workers outside the 1st class to agitate for 30% increase in basic salaries as the war bonus which was granted by the colonial administrators (Ananaba, 1970). The union later discussed other grievances which included: discrimination in salary scale in favor of Europeans against African workers performing same jobs, and abolition of the ‘frequent imposition of fines as a measure of discipline’ (Yesufu, 1982,: 96).
In 1931, the Railway Workers Union and the Nigeria Union of Teachers were formed; before this time railway workers were under the Nigerian Civil Service Union (Egboh, 1968). The 1930 economic crisis aided the coming out of the then Mechanic Union out of the Nigerian Civil Service Union; although the former claimed to embrace all employees of the railway; the clerical workers chose to remain with the later (Yesufu, 1982). With the passing of the Nigerian Trade Union Ordinance in 1938, the numbers of registered trade unions as well as memberships increased; for example, in 1940 only 14 unions were registered with 4,629 members but by 1944 this had increased to 91 registered unions with over thirty thousand members (Nigeria Department of Labor Annual Reports, 1945).
By 1975, under the military regime of General Murtala Muhamed one thousand trade unions were registered
(Fashoyin, 1980). That same year, his government established a Commission of Enquiry to look into the past activities of the unions. Administrators were appointed to manage the unions as the unions were polarized and ideologically divided therefore creating labor problems for the country (Ibid, 1980). Therefore, this study focuses on examining the role of trade union towards solving employee's problems in Nigeria.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
TUCTA report (2007) there is absolutely no doubt that both government employees and non-government employees despite of being members of trade unions still remain with working grievances like law wages, poor working conditions, poor health and safety, fear of termination to their employers when demanding their interests, unlawful termination, fear to participate on lawful activities of trade unions.
HakiElimu and TTU (2004) conducted a study to investigate teachers’ payment in Nigeria and realized that teachers are earning less than what is required for their human survival. Teachers in Nigeria earn about $120 a month. Sumra (2006) who claims that “teachers are facing many and complex problems in Nigeria’. These problems range from low salaries to low status”. John (2010) indicates that Government schools do not offer quality education because teachers are demoralized to work effectively due to low salaries they get, poor working conditions and poor treatment they are getting from the government.
Manyele et al (2008) in government hospitals working environment is terrible as Needle stick injuries accounted for the largest part of the most common accidents (52.9%) followed by splash of blood from patients (21.7%) burn injury from chemicals (10.6%) and slippery floors (5.9%). Most of the hazardous activities were carried out by nurses and attendants. Chemicals used in hospitals were mainly antiseptics and disinfectants, which causes skin burns during handling and use. These problems make it glaring that there is a need to carry out a study on examining the role of trade union towards solving employee's problems in Nigeria.
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The general objective of this study is to examine the role of trade union towards solving employee's problems in Nigeria, a case study of Nigeria Breweries Lagos. The specific objective of the study include the following:
1. To find out if there is trade unionism among workers in Nigeria Breweries Lagos.
2. To ascertain the impact of trade unionism in managing working grievances in Nigeria Breweries Lagos.
3. To examine the role of trade unionism in ensuring a safe working environment in Nigeria Breweries Lagos.
4. To determine the influence of trade unionism on preventing unlawful termination of employee’s employment in Nigeria Breweries Lagos.
5. To investigate the challenges facing trade unionism in Nigeria Breweries Lagos.
1.4 RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The relevant research questions related to this study include the following:
1. Is there trade unionism among workers in Nigeria Breweries Lagos?
2. What is the impact of trade unionism in managing working grievances in Nigeria Breweries Lagos?
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