Curbing incidences of industrial unrests

May 10th, 2018

It is almost becoming customary for Nigerians to wake up with a news item indicating that one trade union body or another has embarked on industrial action. So preponderant have such refrains been that people are beginning to wonder whether it is now part of the regular menu on the Nigerian culinary delight.
Last year, virtually all the trade unions in the country declared one form of industrial dispute or another. The most notable were the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), the National Association of Resident Doctors (NARD), Medical and Health Workers Union (MAHWUN), Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU), among several other trade union bodies.
In all these instances, millions of man-hour and productive time are wasted, with attendant frustrations on both the union members and recipient of their services. Using the NASU and ASUP strikes for example, the downing of tools by these sets of professionals almost ruined activities in the nationa��s tertiary institutions.
As for the industrial action embarked upon by the several professional bodies in the health sector, the negative effects on standard of life and the national health indices, are better imagined than expressed.
And at the centre of it all is the failure of government to fulfill earlier agreements reached on vexing issues, some of which had lingered for upward of even above ten years.
It is instructive to point out that the country has penal and criminal codes which sections 419 deals with obtaining by false pretences. This section of the legal statute is so popular that an average person in the country fully appreciates the negative connotation of the mention of 419. And it is simply that the person or agency to whom it is referred to is dishonest and cannot be trusted.
Why then do government agencies chose to renege or compromise on agreed terms and remain untrustworthy? It is not unlikely that the thinking in some quarters that unscrupulous Federal and State Ministries of Labour and Employment echelon who negotiate go into such agreements with halfhearted intentions which are often self-centered. It is also believed that they enter into such negotiations simply to fulfill all righteousness.
Otherwise, why is it that year-in-year-out, agreements reached with trade unions are always kept in the breach? Who is benefiting from these recurring 419 activities perpetrated against the Nigerian state and her people? Due to the recurring tendency to breach agreements, trade unions no longer call off strikes, but merely suspend disputes. And the reason for doing so is not far fetched. It is for the simple reason so as to enable them easily ask their members to simply continue from where they before the truce. Doing so is in consonants with the proverb espoused by the late Professor Chinua Achebe in his classical a�?Things Fall Aparta�? that a�?since men have learnt to shoot without missing, eneke nti oba, the bird, learnt to fly without perchinga�?. Meaning that since government negotiators have learnt not to sign 419 agreements, the Labour unions too leant to enter into peace of the grave yard agreements, leaving easy latches they can cling to for another round of strikes.
Since we have the Ministry of Labour at both the Federal and state level yet, industrial disharmony continues to be regular refrain, could one rightly say that the operators have lived up to the demand of their offices. Is it possible that somehow, they failed to arrive at implementable resolutions or failed to follow-up on the implementation of agreed terms because of any pecuniary reason? Given observable recurrences, there is urgent need to review the reward system, particularly concerning allowances paid to such negotiators, such that only successful implementation of agreements and resulting industrial harmony are rewarded. But where people receive sitting and other allowances based on dead end negotiations, the cycle will no doubt continue as we have been witnessing.
While it may sound preposterous to conjecture that there could be pecuniary fifth columnist actions surrounding our trade union negotiation processes, it would not be out of place to thoroughly analyse the cost of negotiating non-implemented or failed trade union agreements. The costs in terms of allowances and lost man-hours certainly, are mind boggling. And spending such a humongous amount of money on agreements hitherto designed not to be implemented, is a colossal economic fraud.
We at The AUTHORITY believe that properly dissecting the ramifications of these failed industrial agreements is another sure footed processes to the socioeconomic and political advancement that is so urgently needed in the country. We can drastically reduce incidences of 419 or discontent activities in the country by behaving to terms. And one of the ways of achieving this is to beam searchlight on the outcomes of Government/Labour Unions agreements

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