Challenges of Trade Dispute Resolution in Nigeria

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:

  1. Setting the terms of employment
  2. Setting rules in the workplace
  3. 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?

The interests of the different actors are most often than not conflicting for which compromises are constantly negotiated to generate agreement between actors. At issue for workers are pay levels and working conditions, for managers, workforce quality and the degree of authority wielded at the work place.
i.There is the need to strengthen and utilize existing labour relations mechanism to facilitate continuous interface so that differences are narrowed and frustrations are re-channel into useful productive ends so as to ensure that conflict is minimized and services are not disrupted.
ii.Both the government and labour unions must allow room for adjustments and re-adjustments of demands based on socioeconomic conditions during the period of negotiation.
iii. Negotiation should be conducted in an atmosphere that is open, honest and devoid of domineering tendencies.
iv.Once agreements are reached and sign, each party to the pact must seek to respect and abide by the dictates of the accord and where the negotiating process fails










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