Section 17 (3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that the state shall direct its policy toward ensuring that all citizens have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment. It also just and humane work conditions where the health, safety and welfare of employees are safeguarded and not abused.
Disputes are incidental to every relationship, and the Employer-Employee relationship creates an ecosystem which is particularly susceptible conflicts.
A prominent feature of labour relations globally is the collective bargaining process, whereby employers negotiate the terms of the employment relationship with representatives of the employees. This process facilitates the amicable resolution of disputes in a mutually respectful environment.Failure in the collective bargaining process often leads to industrial actions like protests, picketing, strikes, lock outs, go slows etc and sometimes culminates in litigation.
Collective bargaining has 3 broad objectives:
- Setting the terms of employment
- Setting rules in the workplace
- Setting methods of settling disputes
The question arises whether the Employment culture in Nigeria, where a substantial portion of the population are either unemployed or are under employed, supports the effective resolution of trade disputes in a manner which best safeguards the health, safety and welfare of the employees. Do employers and employees have the same incentives to actively work towards resolution of industrial disputes? What incentives do managers have to comply with the agreements arising from the collective bargaining process, especially in situations where the business is already faced with high overheads and other rapidly rising costs of doing business in the country?