What is labour relation?
It is the system that attempts to regulate labour relationship (employers, employee & state) in society.
It consists of various parties that are involved in power relations. The vehicle or mechanisms through which the parties seek to exert their authority or influence over the others are:
·Recognition of agreement.
·Workplace disciplinary / grievance procedure
·Legislative framework: laws which impact on rights/duties of parties, determine the voluntary/compulsory nature of legislation.
The interplay of these factors determines the character of labour relations regime. Anyone of the following could be the defining characteristic:
·Authoritarianism – denial of rights.
·Acrimony/Disputes – state of anarchy.
·Dominated by ruling class.
·Unfriendly to workers – unfair laws & poor remunerations.
·Non-respect for collective agreement – weak tripartism.
·Restrict/restrain free collective agreement.
Forms of Labour Relations
Labour relation is informed by sets of beliefs that determine the society’s political, social and economic relationships – the ideological base of society. There are two extremes:
This is characterised by:
·Minimum state interference.
·Market forces (Adam Smith)..
This is characterised by:
·State responsible for well-being of its citizens.
·Common ownership of means of production (Karl Marx).
This is a middle road between Smith & Marx. It is informed by a philosophy of promoting individual endeavour and competition but with due reference to needs of society – necessary for some state interference.
There are other theories such as the unitarists, pluralists, corporatism & co-determination.
External Factors that impact on Labour Relations.
1.Globalisation: search for markets/cheaper labour, resources, continued dependence on global economy.
2.North – South divide: developed, developing & under developed worlds.
3.Diminishing role of the state – rising influence of international financial institutions and multinational corporations.
4. Forms of work: flexibility, casualisation, outsourcing, etc.
5.Democratic political system – impacts on socio-economic relationships.
6.Forms of organisations – capacity & skills.
Political Economy of Labour Relations in Nigeria Colonial Era
Beginning of modern Nigerian state dates back to four centuries ago. Some of the factors that contributed in shaping the process of state formation include:
i. Islamic conquests of Northern Nigeria.
ii. Patterns of trade.
iii. Inter marriages and alliances of kingdoms and empires.
iv. British colonial conquest emergence of limited liability companies and later multinational companies (17th centuries).
v.Occupation of Lagos in 1862 – proclaimed crown colony: the beginning of direct colonial administration and rule in Nigeria.
Therefore modern Nigerian state formation was laid between 1860 & 1898 by European commercial firms and local trading magnets engaged in cut-throat competition in Lagos, old Calabar & Niger- Delta.
The purpose of state labour policy under colonialism in Nigeria was the creation of wage – labour force to meet the commercial needs of both local and European companies. The bases were laid after Lagos became a Crown Colony in 1862.
The aims were to:
·Create a labour market .
·Develop a stable labour force.
·Ensure ready market for imported consumer goods and wares.
·Create conditions favourable for ‘legitimate trade’ and other activities of increasing importance.
The Royal Niger Company was granted charter in 1886, which recognise it as the official agent of British government and therefore set the stage for military and direct political control.
The task of combining establishment and administration of the political territory and ensuring profitable business in the face of stiff local and foreign competition led to the establishment of West African Frontier Force to check threats against British. This task was executed by Lord Lugard.
Between 1890 and 1910, there was systematic military subjugation of local rulers in all parts of the country. The charter granted to the Royal Niger Company was revoked in 1892 due to warfare and resistance to monopolistic trading practices and by January 1, 1900 direct political control was established. Nigeria was divided into three administrative units:
1.Colony of Lagos administered by the colonial office.
2.Niger Coast Protectorate (Old Bendel State & former Eastern Region with headquarters at old Calabar) administered by the foreign office.
3.Empires of Sokoto & Kanem Borno & the confluence of Rivers Benue and Niger (Lokoja area) administered by the Royal Niger Company subject to supervision of the foreign office with headquarters at old Asaba.
Poor communication, vast territory and prohibitive cost of European civil servants made Lugard to start utilising indigenous political administrative arrangement.
Between 1862 & 1900, technical and professional departments began to emerge. These include:
· Public Works
· Post Offices
The functions of these departments include processing of grievances.
Negotiations and consultations were restricted to public admin and mainly European officers who by 1897 were not more that 90. Colonial labour policy during this period was more a response to demands and protests against working conditions and wage rise by workers. Wage tribunals and commissions were major features of the response. The following are lists of commissions that were set up to address particular issues:
1. Hunt Committee – 1934. It was charged with the responsibility of reviewing the wages of unskilled workers and to determine reasonable standard of living for labour.
2. Bridges Committee – 1941.
It reviewed wages of African government workers in Lagos & recommended compensatory increases subsequently called cost-of-living awards’ (COLA).
3.Harragin Commission – 1945.
Reviewed salaries of ‘established’ government staff.
4.Tudor Davis Commission – 1946.
It was appointed in the wake of June 1945 general strike. It granted workers demand for COLA.
5.Miller Committee – 1947.
Looked into wage rates of daily paid workers.
6.Cowan enquiry – 1948.
Investigated and reported on methods of negotiations between government and employees in state-owned industrial establishments. The Cowan enquiry introduced Whitley Councils:
·Junior Whitley Council (A) for clerical & other office employees
·Junior Whitley Council (B) for industrial and manual workers
7. Fitzgerald Commission – 1949.
It examined the circumstances leading to violent protests and deaths such as the Enugu coal miners protest.
8.Gorsuch Commission – 1954.
It reconciled the salaries and fringe benefits of federal and regional civil servants.
9.Mbanefo Commission – 1958.
Set up the federal, eastern governments. Looked into workers agitation for competitive wages.
10. Morgan Commission – 1959.
Set up by the Western Regional government to look into workers agitation for competitive wages.
These commissions, committees and enquiries form a significant twists and turns to the evolution of labour relations practice in Nigeria.
Legal Framework for Labour Relations Institutions in Nigeria
Trade Union Ordinance – 1938: The ordinance defines trade unions as “any combination whether temporary or permanent, the principal purpose of which are the regulations between workmen, or between masters and masters whether such combination would or would not, if this ordinance had not been enacted, to have been deemed to have unlawful combination by reason of some, one or more of its purposes, being in restraint of trade.
·The ordinance barred prison and police workers from belonging to unions.
·All trade unions have to be registered within three months of formation or disbanded.
·It created the office of Registrar of Trade Unions with powers to register or cancel registration.
·Two copies of union rules/constitution and list of officers have to be deposited with the Registrar.
Membership of unions restricted to persons above the age of 16 and as few as 5 persons can form a union.
· Illiterates and minors were not allowed to hold positions of treasurer, secretary and president.
·Unions must keep comprehensive membership list indicating occupation, trade, and names of employer and for the records to be open to inspection by any person having an interest in the funds of the union.
· Accounts were required to be kept and audited annually by persons approved by the Registrar of Trade Unions and a copy submitted to him within a month and general statement of account to be rendered to him (Registrar) yearly before 1st June.
· The Registrar had powers to call for Special Returns and empowered to institute criminal or civil proceedings.
The Trade Union Ordinance also established labour inspectorate. The labour inspectorate became Department of Labour in 1942 and a full fledged Federal Ministry with a Minister in 1957. Part of the function of the Ministry include administering laws and regulations pertaining to organised labour and providing such services as conciliation, arbitration and supervision of the provisions of the Factories Act that periodically involve employees.
Trade Disputes (Arbitration & Inquiry) Ordinance was enacted in 1941.
Labour (Wage Fixing & Regulation) Ordinance No. 40 was enacted in 1943. The Ordinance attempted price control and establish higher minimum wage in tin mines.
Labour Code Ordinance was enacted in 1945. It:
·Sought to protect workers from abuses
·Prohibit force labour
·Regulate the employment of young persons and women at night.
·Spell out the manner of payment of wages
·Concerned itself with other non-monetary benefits and entitlements .
The ordinance was a response to the 1945 general strike. The Tudor Davis Commission appointed in the wake of the strike deplored the absence of official direction on matters of collective bargaining and disputes and the ineffectiveness of the Department of Labour. The Ordinance recommended the establishment of ad hoc National Negotiating Committee comprising state representatives, private employers and workers. Labour (Wage Fixing and Regulation) Ordinance of 1943 established Labour Advisory Boards based on the recommendation of the Bridges Committee of 1941. The Ordinance empowered the Boards to make enquiries into conditions of service and wages referred to them and to make recommendations for fixing statutory minimum wage.
Wage Board Ordinance of 1957 established the Wage Boards.
Post Colonial Era
1.Junior Whitley Councils were reconstituted into a National Public Service Negotiating Councils in 1974 following recommendations of Udoji Commission.
a.Council I for adrnin 8: professionals.
b.Council II for clerical, executive and typists.
c.Council III for technical.
2.Joint Industrial Councils or Joint Consultative Committees were adopted for public corporations and utilities (parastatals).