TRADE UNIONISM, COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AND
NATION BUILDING: THE NIGERIAN EXPERIENCE
Charles N. Okolie
It is a well known fact that the growth and development of any nation depends on the structures it has carved out for itself. In Nigeria, amidst the various arms of the government which has been working tirelessly to ensure the growth and sustenance of the Nigerian state is the emergence of trade unions. The colonial influence in Nigeria has left much to be desired. The emergence of these trade unions has become a desired form of association in order to restore the dignity of professional workers and more so ensure greater level of overall national output which is part of nation building. These unions operate on different levels depending on their modus operandi. They use different means to press home their needs seeking for recognition in the political sphere. To ensure peace and as part of the process of resolving any industrial dispute, the unions in dispute often enter into some kind of collective bargaining with the government or agency involved. Over the years these trade unions have preserved in their collective efforts to maintain a standardized culture in the labour market. This stems from the clarion call by the nationalist movement for collective co-operation and nation building. The impact of these trade unions on the Nigerian government cannot be over emphasized. Their persistent push and prowess have always put the government/agencies on their toes hoping to meet the workers demands for improved national output and national development. This paper tends to examine the impact of trade unionism and collective bargaining for Nigerian development.
Origin and Development of Trade Unionism in Nigeria
The term trade union has a variety of meanings depending on the perception of workers and the definition imposed by legal
frameworks in many countries. According to Fajana, Trade unions laws in the UK and Nigeria defines trade union as: … any
combination whether temporary or permanent, the principal
objectives of which its constitution are … the regulation of the Trade Unionism, Collective Bargaining and Nation Building 137 relation between workmen 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 of benefits to members (132).
From the definition, employers associations are also to be
regarded as trade unions. Trade unions are the main power resource of working people. The power in this collectivity of workers can promote the resolution of a variety of problems faced by the workforce and which help in nation building. Generally, the role of unions to their members includes economic, social, welfare,
political, psychological benefits and opportunity to participate in managerial functions in the industry. Apart from the enlarged role of trade unions in the development of the society, the most important function of unions is the provision of economic benefits to their members.
Historically, there has been organization of workers in Nigeria before the advent of modern trade unionism. The trade unions in the former British colonies including Nigeria were not natural
developments as in the metropolitan countries but rather a creature of the then British colonial office. This fact not withstanding, there is no evidence to show that the British government deliberately imported trade unionism in Nigeria but it could be said that the development of trade unions in Nigeria may have been influenced by events elsewhere. In the view of Yesufu, the experience in Sierra Leone greatly influenced the development of trade unionism in Nigeria. According to him the first union was not formed by a group of disaffected workers who wanted a platform from which to fight for amelioration of grievances or for the improvement of specific conditions of employment but rather it was formed just to conform to what workers in...
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