Saturday, 3 March 2012


Industrial relations is a multidisciplinary field that studies the employment relationship.[1] Industrial relations is increasingly being called employment relations because of the importance of non-industrial employment relationships. Many outsiders[who?] also equate industrial relations to labour relations. Industrial relations studies examine various employment situations, not just ones with a unionized workforce.
Industrial relations is used to denote the collective relationships between management and the workers. Traditionally, the term industrial relations is used to cover such aspects of industrial life as trade unionism, collective bargaining, workers’ participation in management, discipline and grievance handling, industrial disputes and interpretation of labor laws and rules and code of conduct.

In recent years, the nature of Nigeria's contemporary industrial relations policies have been a subject of major debate. The debate centres around whether contemporary industrial relations policies in Nigeria have given the Government greater control of industrial relations or they have been supportive of all aspects of industrial relations in Nigeria. The paper reviews the theoretical and empirical literature relating to the debate. The analysis shows that Government's contemporary industrial relations policies have not been supportive of all aspects of industrial relations in Nigeria. Rather, these policies have only succeeded in creating a poor and worsening industrial relations system in the country. This is because, instead of stabilizing the labour force, the Government's labour policies have served to destabilize it.


Although the Federal House of Representatives, and the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria have passed the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005, there are still some pertinent issues that needs to be considered. In the letter to the National Assembly, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the sponsor of the Bill to amend the Trade Act 1990, has raised some fundamental issues that deserves our consideration.
This intervention by government is not the first time government and its Agencies would be interfering in the industrial relation system of the country – Odigie 1993. But this instance seems suspicious, because government seemed to be wary of confrontations from organized labour. From 1968 to 2003, several labour laws have been either enacted or amended, yet this Act has drawn more debates, and comments. The argument of government has always been that, being the single largest employer of labour in Nigeria, she has to do all within her powers to regulate the industrial relations climate that would lead to a peaceful industrial environment.
Esan (1987), describes industrial relations as the relationship which exist between workers, employers and between workers and management, in an organisation and that government’s role is that of a third party which could be described as that of an umpire or arbiter. While Yesufu (1982) defines industrial relations as covering all types of collective bargaining and relations between workers, employers, and workers/workers, personal administration and all that has to do with the atmosphere and climate of the workplace. From these definitions, industrial relation system is a three party affairs, which include the workers /unions, employers and the government as the third party.
Webster’s New encyclopedia dictionary (1993) defines an ‘Act’ as a law made by a governing body such as a legislature.
The primary objective of this paper is to undertake a perception study of on the responses of the Nigerian worker to the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005. survey datas were used to generate the responses of the workers who cut across different organizations in both private and public sectors of the economy, and in different locations.

The trade union amendment act 2005
The Trade Union Amendment Act 2005, has specified that, the latitude given to the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), as the only labour center in the country was to be removed, and the opportunity is to be given for the formation of more labour centers.
Obasanjo (2004) in his letter to the National Assembly, the former Nigerian President had accused NLC of talking the laws into their hands, because it was only the labour center in the country. The major function of the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005 was to decentralize the authority, and followership enjoyed by the NLC. Another tenet of the Act 2005 is as found in section 12, subsection 4, which makes the membership of any Trade Union in the country voluntary, and as such, no worker shall be victimized for refusing to be part of a union or participate in industrial action. While section 16 subsection A of the ‘Act’ states that only with the expressed consent of workers can such a Trade Union collect check off dues from salaries. This aspect of the ‘Act’ was only applicable to senior staff associations prior to the amendment of this ‘Act,’ but it now been extended to all categories of workers. The amended ‘Act’ also stipulated that all union dues deducted from staff salaries can only be remitted to registered officers of the trade unions only when they have signed a ‘NO- STRIKE’ clause for the following month. Section 30 subsection 6 stipulates that no trade union, or a registered federated unions shall embark on a strike action, unless two-third of the members of such a union or federated union approves of such an industrial action. In other words, each union must carry out a referendum whether to proceed on a strike or not.
According to Lawal (2004) the then Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity “the cardinal objectives which government intends to accomplish with the amendment of the Trade Union Act 1990, can be highlighted as follows;
1.   Government wants membership of Trade Unions to be voluntary and that no worker should be victimized for refusing to be a member of such a fraternity.
2.   Government wants to minimize strikes, if possible stop it, as the incessant industrial actions in Nigeria has led to colossal loss of revenue to the Federal, State and Local Governments.
3.   The government wants the powers conferred on the Nigeria Labour Congress as the only federated trade union removed.
4.   Finally, he states that doing this (that is amending the Trade Union Act 1990) will help to restore some measure of industrial peace in the industrial environment of the country.
Adeyemi (2004) summed up the amendment of the Act, as follows ‘the Labour Act’ will only destroy trade unionism in Nigeria’, while Oshiomhole (2004) sates that the ‘Act’ will certainly take labour movement back to the pre-1978 era, and the nation may have to contend with the problems which the Trade Union Act of 1978 set out to resolve, which is to have a single body government /employers can negotiate with in resolving industrial problems. In a statement, the National Executive Council of NLC (2004) stressed that the International Labour Organisation (ILO) convention 144 which Nigeria has ratified had placed emphasis on tripartism through effective social parties. But this was not done by the federal government, as it did not consult with the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) before taking the decision to amend the ‘Act’. It therefore viewed the move by government as Anti-democratic, Ryder (2004) the General Secretary of the International Confederation of free Trade Unions (ICYYU) stated that some provisions in the ‘Act’ violate the rights of unions, such as the provision to sign a NO –STRIKE clause before colleting check off dues. He further stressed that the provision to de-register the NLC constitutes a serious violation of Trade Union Rights.

Summary and conclusion

Respondents generally accepted that government minimal intervention would encourage good industrial relations and this would lead to growth, as those who combinely accepted this notion, were 178 respondents of those surveyed. So the opinion is that government intervention in industrial relation system is not out of place, but should be at a minimal level. The workers also wanted the government to provide the legal framework and allow both employers and employees, decide what further step to take in structuring the pattern of industrial relations in their various organizations. The survey also revealed that at present, the overbearance of government of intervention, is not healthy, hence they have suggested that government reduce, its interference in the industrial relations system. This opinion was held by 124 of the respondents representing 51.67%.
Another major view held by the working class in Nigeria is that the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005, will destroy the industrial relations system and should be resisted if possible amended to suit the interest of workers and Trade Unions.
This study has revealed some very pertinent facts, which includes (1) that the average worker has never felt comfortable with the various industrial laws, decrees that have either enacted or
promulgated in this country. (2) They also strongly feel that government is over interfering in the industrial relation system.
This research thus brought out to the fore the need to re-evaluate the industrial relation system, with the sole aim of improving the overall system. Such an appraisal should range from laws, policies, to the main legal framework. There is urgent need to review the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005 – Okaka 2005. According to Holley and Jennings (1994) Industrial relations should be jointly determined by the parties and also administered by all the parties, in line with this, view that is also held by this researcher. Government should always consult with all stakeholders from workers to unions and employees, before embarking on legislating on industrial laws.
Finally government must endeavour to find ways to motivate workers to be productive –Ugiagbe and Okaka 2006. Such motivation can arise from enacting of labour laws that are friendly.

State intervention in industrial relations is essentially a modern development . With the emergence of the concept of welfare state, new ideas of social philosophy, national economy and social justice sprang up with result that industrial relation no longer remains the concern of labour and management alone. Many countries realized that for general progress to be assured, economic progress was a must. In no country is a complete laissez faire attitude now adopted in the matter of labour management relations.


Adeyemi, M. (2004) ‘Opposition Mounts Against Obasanjo’s Moves to weaken Labour, Lagos, Guardian Newspaper June 26, p. 1 & 2.
Esan, R. S. M. (1987) ‘Legal Framework of Industrial Relations in Nigeria, in Dafe Otobo and Morakinyo O. (eds) Readings in Industrial Relations In Nigeria, Lagos Mathouse Press, Lagos.
Holley, H. W. and Jennings, M. K. (1994) The Labour Relations Process; Fifth Edition. The Orland, Harcourt Brace and Company
Lawal, H. (2004) ‘Government Insist on Reforms, Labour Disagrees at Senate Hearing? Lagos, Guardian August 26, P. 1 & 2.
Marx, K.(1933) The Communist Manifesto New York: League for Industrial Democracy.
Obasanjo; Olusegun (2004) Letter to the National Assembly.
Odigie S. A. (1993) State Intervention in Industrial Relations in Nigeria 1860 –1988. Warri, Exco-Siro Printers, Nigeria.
Olson, M. (1971) The Logic of Collective Action Public Goods and the Theory of Groups, in Harvard economics Studies series, Vol. CXXIV Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.
Okaka, E. O. (2004) Government Intervention in Industrial Relations in Nigeria 1861 –2004 and the Trade Union Amendment Bill 2004. University of Benin, Unpublished M. Sc. Thesis.
Oshiomhole A. (2004) “Government Bill and Labour Path to Perdition’ Lagos Guardian June 26, P. B2.


  1. This work has really helped me.its easy to understand. Thanks

  2. Enter your comment...what a great work. tanks i really appreciate

  3. This study is highly comprehensive. it really updated my bank of information on industrial relations in Nigeria.