PRESIDENT of National Industrial Court, NIC, Justice Babatunde Adejumo, has disclosed that no less than four million, Seven Hundred and Fifty Thousand, One Hundred and Ninety-one man-days (4,750,191) were lost to industrial actions in six years in Nigeria.
Justice Adejumo in a paper on Building Effective Conflict Management Mechanism for Sustainable Development in Nigeria, at the 7th National Labour Relations Summit organised by the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, MINILS, gave details of the man-days lost in six year as follows: 2004 – 539,809; 2005 – 708,659; 2006 -111,310; 2007 – 2,329,946 ; 2008 – 495,860 and 2009 – 564,607.
He explained that man-days are calculated on the simple logic of multiplying the number of days a strike action lasted by the strikers i.e. the workers embarking on the strike, saying “in other words, each striking worker’s loss of a day is treated separately from that of a fellow worker.”
The NIC’s President said the six years “man-days were computed from the perspective of industry-wide and industry-specific strikes such as those related to education, health service, public/civil service, construction and civil engineering, welding, agriculture, oil and gas, steel, food, communications, transport, chemical, printing and publishing, shipping, banking etc.”
Justice Adejumo reasoned that because of the negative effects of industrial unrests, no effort should be spared in building effective mechanism for the management of workplace conflicts in Nigeria.
Suggesting ways forward, the apex industrial court’s President said among other things that Nigeria should have a national policy on labour, employment and industrial relations with input from the federal, state and local governments, representatives of workers, representatives of employers of labour, the MINILS and other stakeholders.
According to him, “to complement the national policy on labour, employment and industrial relations that I have advocated for, employers of labour, whether in the public or private sector, should endeavour to adopt labour policies, decisions and practices that have human face. Hence, my humble view is that as a matter of categorical imperative, employers of labour should discard all unfair or anti-labour practices. Every plant, institution or organisation should have workplace resolution policies and procedures. This is the position in advanced countries and has probably contributed to the success stories of their enterprises. Thus, in line with international best practices, we can borrow a leaf from them. Workers must be properly educated on the available policies and procedures for the resolution of workplace conflicts. Hence, I suggest that workplace handbooks given to workers should contain information on how to resolve conflicts in the workplace.
“Management must not overtly or covertly stifle workplace conflicts. Such steps are usually counter-productive either in the short run or long run. As I have observed in the course of this presentation, when workplace conflicts arise and are properly managed, they can lead to better organisation performance. It is necessary for the National Assembly to give urgent and priority attention to the passage of labour related bills pending before the National Assembly. In particular, there is a bill pending before the National Assembly which seeks to reinvigorate and strengthen the Industrial Arbitration Panel, IAP. The passage of this Bill to my mind, should be given priority since what it seeks to do is to make the IAP more responsive and pro-active in the area of workplace dispute resolution.