Trade Unions are a gathering of workers with the sole aim of improving their conditions. They work as mediators between their members and their employers on issues related to the terms and conditions of employment and other benefits for their members through the process of collective bargaining.
They also work tediously to continually ensure the fair treatment of every member as well as upholding social justice.
Trade unions also work to ensure peace and also helping to resolve every dispute within their members or between their members and their employers.
In Nigeria, the primary trade union for all categories of workers is the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). This union encompasses all industrial union in Nigeria. It was formed in August 1950, but restructured in 1978.
Types Of Trade Unions
There are majorly four types of trade unions in Nigeria, they are :
Industrial Unions: These unions represents industry workers in Nigeria employed as manpower.
Craft Unions: These unions represents specifically skilled workers involved in handiworks, arts and crafts i.e barbing, tailoring, carpentry and a lot more.
General Unions: This union represents all categories of workers in Nigeria. An example is the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
White Collar Unions: These type of unions represents all categories of white collar jobs.
Aims And Objectives Of Trade Unions In Nigeria
Some of the aims and objectives of trade unions in Nigeria according to the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) which is the umbrella body of all trade unions in Nigeria are as follows:
1. To continually promote , defend and advance the economic, political and social well – being of Nigerian workers.
2. To promote and defend the rights , well -being and interests of workers in the work-place and society.
3. To promote and defend the rights , well -being and interest of pensioners and ensure their recognition by the Society.
4. To continually enhance the quality of life and improve the income and other working conditions of workers.
5. To promote and defend trade unions and human rights , the rule of law and democratic governance.
6. To work for the industrialization and prosperity of the Nigerian nation and ensure protection of jobs, full employment and humane working environment.
7. To continually strive to influence public corporate policies and legislation on all issues at all levels , in the interest of workers , disadvantaged social groups and trade unions.
Notable Achievements Of Trade Unions In Nigeria
Since independence, trade unions in Nigeria have anchored several notable agitations concerning workers welfare . Some of the notable achievements of the of the umbrella body of all trade unions in Nigeria, (NLC) are listed below:
Minimum wage reviews
On three occasions, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has championed agitations for the review of the minimum wage. First was in 1981 under the leadership of Hassan Sunmonu when it was increased from ₦120 to ₦125.
Subsequently, it was increased from ₦5500 to ₦7500 during the Obasanjo regime. Lastly, The new minimum wage of ₦18,000 was also seriously agitated for and was finally implemented on March 27th, 2011.
Stiff resistance of government policies
On January 9th 2012, the Nigeria Labour Congress, (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC), the two major umbrella bodies for workers in the country mobilized workers for an indefinite strike action to protest against the fuel subsidy removal of January 1st 2012.
The struggle for democracy
Trade unions in Nigeria have played significant roles in the fight for democracy. Some notable contributions to democracy in Nigeria were against military rule, especially during the agitation for free and fair elections in June 1993 and also in the fights against corruption.
Challenges Facing Trade Unions In Nigeria
Despite the important achievements of trade unions in Nigeria, these unions still suffers from lots of problems. I shall be pointing out some of this problems below:
In Nigeria, trade unions are more active in the bigger industries and in areas with very high concentrations of industries. But in the smaller organisations, trade union activities are very weak.
This is the major reason for the unfair treatments meted out to workers by their employers in the smaller organizations where unionism is weak.
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There are over a hundred trade unions in Nigeria currently. Most of this unions are insignificant in terms of numbers. Their small size renders their resolutions and stance inconsequential.
Only a few trade unions in Nigeria commands a large degree of members. The rest are always handicapped in terms of members and this has a direct effect on their financial strength and income.
Also, in larger unions, most of their members usually don’t pay their dues. This also has a serious effect on the financial strength of the union.
Members of trade unions in Nigeria are always at loggerheads during elections into leadership positions in the union.
Trade unions are characterized by leadership tussles, disagreements and division during elections. This is because most of the members are always overwhelmed by their personal selfish interests rather than the collective interests of the union.
Another issue related to the leadership of trade unions in Nigeria is the extent to which this union leaders are exploited by corrupt politicians and this has caused serious damage to the image of trade unions in Nigeria.
From leaders to members, the reputation of some trade unions in Nigeria have been greatly damaged by the high level of corruption both members and leaders indulge in. There have been allegations of bribery, gross misconduct, abuse of power and theft of union’s funds and properties by both members and leaders.
Proliferation Of Unions
Another issue affecting the growth of trade unions in Nigeria is the existence of multiple unions under the same field.
This inevitably leads to conflicts and rivalry. Also, when there is an existence of several unions in the same field, workers tend to split themselves among the different groups available. This therefore reduces their effectiveness and collective bargaining power.
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Most members of trade unions do not take keen interest in the activities of the union, they even hardly attend periodic meetings.
This is mainly due to limited time, lack of financial motivation or ignorance, as some workers are oblivious of the benefits of joining a trade union.
This attitude costs the union their collective bargaining power and their ability to fight for their rights whenever it is trampled upon by their employers or the government.
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