The crux of this dissertation is to critically examine and appraise the Right of Workers to Strike, the Recent ASUU strike and the Legality of Collective Bargaining in Nigeria using the International Labour Organization Standard as a point of reference in comparison with the Nigerian laws.
Conflict between the employer and workers is inevitable in the workplace and it is resolved through the instrumentality of collective bargaining and the right to strike.
Collective bargaining right and the workers’ right to strike are essential rights recognized by the International Labour Organization.
The Nigerian Legal framework also recognizes these rights although the 1999 Constitution does not expressly make provision for them but they impliedly recognized by section 40 and other sections of the constitution.
The Trade Union Act, Trade Union (Amendment) Act, Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, Trade Disputes Act, etc are the laws made pursuant to the 1999 constitution covering and regulating collective bargaining and the right to strike by workers with derogations and restrictions contained therein.
This dissertation is library based and it adopted the doctrinal and analytical legal research methods with recourse made to legislations, statutes, conventions, textbooks, juristic opinions, case laws, journals etc both in Nigeria and other foreign jurisdictions.
The dissertation has several findings which includes that the Nigerian workers have the right to strike but the legal framework for the exercise of the right to strike is inadequate and a far cry from the standard by the world’s apex labour body; the major challenge of collective bargaining is the non execution of collective agreements by the government due to absence of political will.
Also, from the findings, the research work makes some recommendations which includes but not limited to the fact that there is the urgent need for a clear codification and entrenchment of the right to strike by workers in the 1999 constitution.
1.1 Background of the Study
This chapter seeks to explain the structural background of this work. It lays out the statement of the problem, research questions, aim/objectives of the study, limitation of the study, significance of the study etc.
The right of workers to strike and collective bargaining right although not specifically enshrined in the 1999 constitution flow from freedom of association and the right of workers to form and belong to trade unions. These rights are also recognized by the Trade Disputes Act and other statutes.
Industrial relations is an ever changing socio-economic process and the workers and management (employer) relationship is hinged on reciprocal adjustment of interests into goals.
The workers’ right to strike is the bedrock of contemporary industrial democracy and under the International Labour Organization it is a recognizable fundamental right. Also, the concept of the right to strike is an indispensable element in the principle of collective bargaining as given a judicial pronouncement per Lord Wright and without the right to strike; workers are like Guinea pigs in the shooting range.
The workers’ right to negotiate their employment terms and conditions is amongst the key principles of the International Labour Organization and it is the inalienable right of workers in all civilized nations (Nigeria inclusive).
Thus, strike action is usually the end product of a broken collective agreement.
The workers’ right to bargain with their employer is very paramount to industrial unity, efficiency, effectiveness and productivity and its importance cannot be underscored.
Flowing from the above, this dissertation examines the workers’ right to strike, the recent ASUU strike and the legality of collective bargaining in Nigeria. It uses the International Labour Organization standard as a yardstick to the Nigerian current realities in industrial relations.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
The necessity and need for Nigeria to accede to all International Labour Organisation Conventions and Recommendations that are geared towards the enhancement and protection of the right of workers in Nigeria cannot be under estimated.
There is an urgent need for statutory intervention in line with International Labour Organisation Conventions, Recommendations and International Best Practices.
That is, unjust and draconian legislations, disciplinary policies and actions that suppress and are still militating against workers welfare and job security most especially, summary dismissal or sack of workers for partaking in strikes should be totally taken off the labour system.
Strict adherence to International Labour Organisation standard and International Best Practices will certainly do much in the protection of the vulnerable and helpless worker.
It is very obvious that Nigerian workers are totally suppressed and their rights caged by the government in total disregard of the standard recommended by the International Labour Organisation.
This is evidently seen for example, in 2001, over forty nine lecturers in UniIlorin were summarily dismissed for partaking in strike action.The sack or dismissal of workers for partaking in strike action is a contravention of the right of workers to freedom of association.
Also, the continuous dismissal of workers for participation in strike action is a fragrant breach of workers’ right to job security which under the International Best Practices and International Labour Standard is a fundamental right.
The unenforceability of collective agreements by courts in Nigeria is a big threat to the members of all labour unions .The enforcement of collective agreement is at the mercy of the Minister of Labour who is an appointee of the federal government and can dance to the whims and caprices of the government by implementing or giving effect to the areas authorized by his appointers.
This research work is therefore geared towards the right of workers to strike, the recent ASUU strike and the legality of collective bargaining in Nigeria.
It also tries to review the International Labour Organisation Standard on the workers’ right to strike, collective bargaining and juxtaposes same with the Nigerian legal framework.
The Researcher also makes reference to foreign jurisdictions with a view to drawing lessons to be learnt by Nigeria
1.3 Aim and Objectives of the Study
This research work is aimed at undertaking an extensive analysis and appraisal of the workers’ right to strike, the legality of collective bargaining and the recent Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) strike in Nigeria.
The objectives are:
1. To examine the extent to which collective bargaining is significant in industrial relations.
2. To examine the actual status of a collective agreement when it is unenforceable in court in Nigeria.
3. To examine the challenges and limitations to the enforcement of collective bargaining in Nigeria.
4. To examine the function, purpose and significance of the workers’ right to strike.
5. To examine the limitations/derogations on the workers’ right to strike in Nigeria.
6. To ascertain the need for the codification / entrenchment of the workers’ right to strike as a right in the 1999 Constitution.
7. To identify the consequences of the recent ASUU strike on the nation of Nigeria.
8. To identify the gaps in the Nigerian legal framework on workers’ right to strike and collective bargaining and to make recommendations for reforms.
9. To bring to light whether Nigeria has conformed to the International Labour Organisation standard and International Best Practices in safeguarding the right of workers to strike and collective bargaining to wit: ratification and domestication of ILO standard.
1.4 Research Questions
From the analysis above, the following research questions are jurisprudentially and critically raised by the researcher;