ARCHITECTURE OF INDUSTRIAL PEACE AND CONFLICT:
TENSION, DICTION AND CONTRADICTIONS
Professor Ifeanyi P. Onyeonoru
Department of Sociology,
University of Ibadan,
E-mail: [email protected]; Phone: +234-8032195560
Incessant industrial disputes and strikes characterize the industrial relations terrain in Nigeria. This development is in spite of labour laws and institutional frameworks that technically outlaw the strike and provide for compulsory processing of industrial disputes - from internal procedure through mediation and conciliation to the National Industrial Court - the final arbiter on industrial disputes whose awards are final and binding on the disputants. Large scale socio-economic deprivations accompany losses in productive days due to disputes and strikes and this has implications for a sustainable development process. The paper sets out to investigate the extent and nature of industrial conflicts associated with the industrial relations system in Nigeria, against the backdrop of the Trade Dispute Act 1976 (as amended) enacted to moderate industrial disputes. It also examines the causes of high strike-proneness with a view to identifying potentials for more harmonious dispute settlement system. The investigation employs Craig’s open system model of industrial relations and data from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, to examine the nature of external influences on the system and utilizes industrial conflict indicators such as the number of disputes, number of disputes resulting in strikes, strikes as a percentage of disputes, number of disputes resolved, duration of dispute days, number of workers involved and total man (human) days lost to examine the extent of disputes and strikes. Pointers to factors undermining the effectiveness of the dispute resolution system and within which framework solutions to the problem were discussed in the paper include: inter-sectoral income inequality, widespread official corruption, distrust arising from interference of government in the arbitration system particularly in cases involving her, the ambivalent position of the State as a labour market regulator and major employer, poor enforcement of labour law, the incapacity of the government to negotiate and, or honour collective agreements and vulnerability arising from the rentier status of the Nigerian State. The paper is emphatic that the state must show evidence of good governance, instead of coercion as part of re-orientation of social partners in industrial relations towards more harmonious work-place relations.