By Revd Dr. Idowu Ibitoye
Industrial actions are simply actions taken by the employees of organizations or civil servants as a protest, most especially embarking on strike. It is a temporary show of dissatisfaction by employees, with the main purpose of reacting against bad working conditions or low salary payment and request for increments.
The news of strike action in Nigeria is no longer new. This happens with different labor unions embarking on strike actions in order to push their demand before the government of the day. As at the time of this write up (early December 2020)Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was on strike that has lasted for about 9 months. This has affected academic exercises in most Universities negatively.
This and many more prompted this write-up, as a matter of church response in
offering possible solutions to the problem of industrial actions.
Causes of Constant Strike Action
Many factors are responsible for constant strike actions in Nigeria, these include:
1. Poor Remuneration – Considering the monthly salaries of Nigerian workers compared with their counterparts in other neighboring nations who are on the same pedestal with Nigerians, one will realised that Nigerian workers are suffering and under paid. Many workers find it difficult to feed and carter for their families. While the price of commodities in the market is skyrocketing every day, Nigeria workers are left with the option of demanding for better salaries, through any available avenue.
2. Lack of adequate equipment to work with – most of the nation’s institutions lack modern equipment, some of the tools are archaic and such cannot respond to modern challenges. Looking at most Government owned hospitals one will realize that the medical facilities are old or broken down without replacement. The medical professionals who are trained and ready to serve their father land are without adequate implements, while this has led to the loss of several lives. This is also applicable in institutions, parastatals and agencies. Government must rise to this challenge by providing modern tools. Deploring modern equipment will make the work faster, easier, and will enhance productivity.
3. Unfavorable working environment – Many workers endure the environment where they work; while many environments are not favorable for work, this may be due to environmental hazard or unfriendly atmosphere for the workers provided by the employers. If this is not properly addressed it will continue to affect negatively the productivity of workers and their input.
4. Regular increase in petroleum pump price- Nigerian leaders incessantly of increase the price of petroleum commodity and anytime this is done, Nigerian labour unions react, which most of the time ground services of members of trade unions. Likewise, anytime the price of petrol is increased, it affects, all areas of public life, which usually made life unbearable for the citizens.
5. Poor workers welfare package – It is often said by Nigerian workers that government in the 3 tiers, do not have good welfare package for her workers. Many retirees wait endlessly to collect their pension, while many die without collecting what they have used their entire life to labour for. Both public and private sectors must ensure that good welfare package, in the form of accessibility to good accommodation, health care delivery and transportation for their workers are well taken care of. When a good welfare package is effectively delivered to workers, it will serve as catalyst for workers and encourage them to work harder.
6. Poor infrastructural facilities – Most of our critical assets and infrastructures are dilapidated, and needs total renovation. Getting to most Nigerian schools either primary, secondary or tertiary institutions, the structures are dilapidated and old. A trip to government owned hospitals will make one shed tears due to the dilapidating infrastructural facilities. Government needs to do something very fast in rebuilding most of the nation’s critical assets. ASUU embarks on strike because most government owned Universities require overhauling of dilapidating infrastructural facilities on the University campuses.
7. Increase in prices of commodities – The prices of commodities increase on the daily basis with workers’ salary not able to accommodate it. Government needs to do something about price control, the agency saddled with this responsibility must be empower and allowed to work at ensuring stable price of commodities in the markets. Whenever the prices of commodities skyrocket workers react through strike actions, for immediate government intervention.
Negative effects of Constant Industrial Action
It is a known fact that constant industrial actions has numerous negative effects over Nigeria and Nigerians, this include:
I. Dwindling Economy– Industrial actions gradually diminish the strength of the nation’s economy. Constant strike actions always affects the growth of the country GDP, because during industrial actions everything stands still, while the economy does not move forward. All businesses, trade and banks crawls during strikes action.
II. Affects educational system– Students suffer more during strike actions. The just concluded industrial action by ASUU had already negatively affected our youths and is having side effect on the their future as so much had been lost in terms of years spent in school, time wasted on trivial things and discouragement of schooling itself.
III. Lack of trust – Another side effect of industrial action is that the citizens lose confidence and trust in the government. Often time’s,when agreements are reached with labour leaders, government always fail to implement her own side of the agreement. Nigerian government should ensure trust and build/restore confidence in the citizens
IV. Poor Image of the Nigerian nation– The constant industrial action has resulted in mockery of Nigerian among the comity of nations. Developed countries wonder why issues that ought to be settled through dialogue, usually resulted into strike actions that leads to loss of manpower and economic waste.
V. Scaring away foreign investors – Any country where workers constantly engage in industrial actions will never attract investors. Government alone cannot shoulder the development of the nation and as she alone cannot provide jobs for all citizens, foreigner and infrastructures required by investors in providing jobs. Government and labour leaders should always ensure they reach agreement before it results into strike actions, so that such will not give workers the tag of “idle workers” also.
VI. Constant Strike action can breed lawlessness and anarchy – It is often said that an idle hand is the devil’ workshop. Street or open protest can be hijacked by hoodlums which may lead to looting and vandalisation of infrastructural facilities. This was evident during the 2020 ENDSARS protests. Government should be proactive and always nip strikes in the bud by quickly addressing the situation with immediate action and appropriate response.
Words to the Government
The constant strike actionsare precipitated by many factors which the Nigerian workers face daily at their different duty posts. This problem of constant strike action can only become a thing of the past, if the government of the day decides to do the needful.
Government must create enabling and conducive environment for workers to discharge their duties. Good policies and effective implementation of same on remuneration of workers must be carried out. Government likewise, must deal decisively with erring workers to ensure sanity and restore the dignity of Nigeria workforce.
Finally, government, labour unions, and workers (both private and public), must collaborate together to make the nation great.
Constant industrial actions in Nigeria is becoming worrisome; government and workers must together find lasting solution to it and whenever agreements are reached, both parties must be faithful at implementing same and not bridge the agreement. God will reward everyone accordingly.
By Revd Dr. Idowu Ibitoye