] Issa Aremu, What about In­dus­trial Re­la­tions? (II)

Daily Trust - - VIEWS -

With post­hu­mous apol­ogy to Chinua Achebe, there was cer­tainly once a Nigeria with abun­dant data on val­ued added ac­tiv­i­ties (pro­duc­tiv­ity) and work re­lated re­la­tions in gen­eral. For in­stance in­dus­trial dis­putes sta­tis­tics and the as­so­ci­ated man hours, sorry (to be gen­der cor­rect-) hu­man hours!) losses were once part of na­tional sta­tis­tics. There was once a pro­duc­tive Nigeria in which in­dus­trial progress was val­ued and the in­her­ent in­dus­trial re­la­tions be­tween em­ploy­ers and em­ploy­ees and even em­ploy­ees and em­ploy­ees are cap­tured in quan­ti­ta­tive and qual­i­ta­tive data. Value ad­di­tion through pro­duc­tiv­ity or any value sub­trac­tion through strikes and in­dus­trial dis­rup­tions were mea­sured in terms of times and money. For as long as it lasted, the mori­bund Federal Of­fice of Sta­tis­tics (FOS) was very ac­tive in com­pil­ing use­ful labour mar­ket data in the 60s up to the 80s, and even up the 90s.

These data in turn served as use­ful guide in man­ag­ing in­dus­trial re­la­tions. Same for the An­nual Re­ports of Cen­tral Bank of Nigeria (CBN). Un­doubt­edly Nigeria Bureau of Sta­tis­tics (NBS) un­der the able lead­er­ship of the Statis­ti­cian Gen­eral Dr Yemi Kale has truly mod­ern­ized. We now have an on-line e-Li­brary of sta­tis­tics to match! I am there­fore sur­prised to have searched in vain for some ba­sic data on in­dus­trial dis­putes for in­stance in its posted An­nual Ab­stract of Sta­tis­tics of 2011. For a coun­try that daily mud­dles through from one avoid­able in­dus­trial dis­pute to the other, it is not clear why NBS is labour dis­putes data blind. If we can­not count it (read; labour dis­pute!) we cer­tainly can hardly tame it! Even the quick links on So­cio Eco­nomic Data in­di­cate noth­ing on in­dus­trial dis­putes. The Bureau that re­mark­ably as­sem­bles good data on cap­i­tal flow, in­fla­tion, and ex­change rates and even on once-in­many-life times de­vel­op­ment agenda par­a­digm such as Mil­len­nium De­vel­op­ment Goals (MDGs) in­ex­pli­ca­bly has lit­tle on of­fer on in­dus­trial re­la­tion. NBS seems to as­sume that only the Federal Min­istry of Labour and Pro­duc­tiv­ity should gather the labour data. This smacks of class bias. Data on labour are needed just as data on other fac­tors of pro­duc­tions are read­ily avail­able. One of the chal­lenges of in­dus­trial re­la­tions there­fore is paucity of data on crit­i­cal in­dus­trial re­la­tions es­pe­cially on in­dus­trial dis­putes. Par­tic­i­pants of Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Course (SEC) 36 must im­press on NBS to add ro­bust in­dus­trial re­la­tions data to its Ab­stract. Sta­tis­tics are ur­gently needed on na­tional Pro­duc­tiv­ity, Col­lec­tive Bar­gain­ing and col­lec­tive agree­ments, job clas­si­fi­ca­tions, wages and set­tle­ments, In­dus­trial con­flicts and con­flict res­o­lu­tions, Pen­sion and So­cial Se­cu­rity, Oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety, grievances at work and all that make up in­dus­trial re­la­tions. These data must also be dis­ag­gre­gated be­tween pri­vate and pub­lic sec­tors for in­formed judg­ments on pol­icy.

The point can­not be over­stated! Nigeria is hunted by a spec­tre of (in most cases) avoid­able in­dus­trial re­la­tions crises. Pri­mary school teach­ers and Aca­demic lec­tur­ers are pe­ri­od­i­cally on strikes. These strikes aver­age 3 months an­nu­ally in the last two decades. In cer­tain years uni­ver­si­ties are shut for 6 months! Cur­rently 7 months’ old strikes of the poly­tech­nics seem for­got­ten. So much then for pri­mary and ter­tiary ed­u­ca­tional ser­vice de­liv­ery! The health sec­tors at Federal and state lev­els have been in in­dus­trial tur­moil of vary­ing di­men­sion as doc­tors, nurses, phar­ma­cists had to go on strikes at dif­fer­ent times. Hitherto the blue col­lar work­ers in the pri­vate sec­tors were known for work stop­pages given the pre­car­i­ous na­ture of pri­vate sec­tor caused by em­ploy­ment based on mor­bid ex­ploita­tion for max­i­mum prof­its by the own­ers of en­ter­prises. How­ever in re­cent times, the pri­vate sec­tor seems rel­a­tively more sta­ble given the en­trenched process of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and con­flict res­o­lu­tion put in place over the years. Work is also get­ting pre­car­i­ous in the pub­lic sec­tor mak­ing it strike prone. Even the so-called es­sen­tial ser­vices such as the Po­lice at­tempted strikes in 2002 dur­ing OBJ first term. In­ter­est­ingly too, the labour unions are also get­ting strike fa­tigue. Just last week, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) un­der the lead­er­ship of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Pres­i­dent, Ab­dul­wa­heed Omar, in Abuja coun­selled the In­de­pen­dent Petroleum Mar­keters As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria (IPMAN) against an abuse of strike weapon by the petroleum mar­keters who are at war over lead­er­ship of (IPMAN). Nigeria pa­rades re­mark­able labour mar­ket in­sti­tu­tions and sig­nif­i­cant labour laws that should reg­u­late in­dus­trial re­la­tions. These in­sti­tu­tions in­clude tri­par­tite Na­tional labour Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil (NLAC) made up of trade unions NLC and TUC, em­ploy­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion (NECA), states and Federal gov­ern­ments), In­dus­trial Ar­bi­tra­tion Panel, IAP, Na­tional In­dus­trial Court, NIC. There are scores of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing coun­cils in the pri­vate sec­tor. These in­sti­tu­tions are to me­di­ate and rec­on­cile labour mar­ket ac­tors in dis­putes. Nigeria has also rat­i­fied and in­deed do­mes­ti­cated core labour con­ven­tions 87 and 98, 151 and 154 deal­ing with terms of work cov­ered. Par­tic­i­pants of Se­nior Ex­ec­u­tive Course (SEC) 36 have the sin­gu­lar re­search task of ex­plain­ing the gap be­tween ro­bust in­sti­tu­tions and rules and in­dus­trial re­la­tions per­for­mance. Speak­ing on the 2013 min­is­te­rial mid-term re­port plat­form, the Min­is­ter of Labour and Pro­duc­tiv­ity, Emeka Wogu re­ported a to­tal of 398 labour re­lated grievances and trade dis­putes be­tween 2011 and 2013. Un­of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics would re­veal that labour re­lated dis­putes are in thou­sands within these pe­ri­ods. And at what costs? We are inun­dated with cor­rup­tion as dis­tinct from de­vel­op­ment nar­ra­tives. There­fore it is eas­ier to quan­tify bil­lions of naira lost to fuel sub­sidy rob­bery, pen­sion and crude oil thefts. But we should also ac­knowl­edge the lost of bil­lions of what the great Po­lit­i­cal Econ­o­mist, Paul Baran in his clas­sic; Po­lit­i­cal Econ­omy of growth called po­ten­tial sur­plus due (in this case) to hu­man hours lost to strikes and work stop­pages. Next week we con­clude by look­ing at the causes of these strikes. The is­sue is not a blame game among labour mar­ket ac­tors but to point out that who­ever causes them the re­sult is the same; pro­duc­tiv­ity haem­or­rhage for an econ­omy striv­ing to over­come mas­sive poverty and will­ing to be part of leading 20 de­vel­oped economies in 2020!

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