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Towards rancour-free labour relations

Within the last 12 months, there have been more than six unions that have threatened to embark on strike with some actually making true their threats while others jettisoned the idea after negotiations with government and their employers.
Just recently, members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) suspended an almost six months strike. The strike was because the federal government refused to implement an agreement it reached with the union in 2009.
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP) has been on strike for almost five months now also because government refused to implement an agreement it signed with the union. These agreements sometimes take years to reach mostly after several acrimonious meetings.
Doctors have been on and off and just concluded a five-day warning strike, threatening an indefinite general strike in January. Just last week, oil workers too issued strike notice.
International Labour Organisation (ILO) conventions stipulate that agreements reached between employers and employees should be implemented to encourage industrial harmony. It encourages constant dialogue in settling potential and existing labour disputes.
Dialogue doesn’t seem to work anymore as the outcomes of such exercises are mostly observed in the breech especially by government. Government will sign a document it has neither the desire nor the will to implement.
Confidence in labour circles is very low because securing an agreement doesn’t necessarily mean an end to an issue. An agreement may be signed within one or two years of intense negotiations but literally take forever for it to be implemented.
In fact, sometimes, workers would dissipate more energy and time on getting government to implement an accord than it took them to get the agreement signed.
To address this challenge, the Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS) has been at the vanguard of organising several high powered interactions amongst all stakeholders.
Recently, stakeholders, i.e., government and private employers as well as representatives of workers in both sectors converged on MINILS offices in Ilorin Kwara State for its ninth annual National Labour Relations Summit.
The Director General of the institute Dr John Olanrewaju while welcoming participants which include the Minister of Labour and Productivity Emeka Wogu, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress Comrade Abdulwahed Omar and his counterpart at the Trade Union Congress Comrade Bobboi Kaigama said the summit was to create understanding.
Olanrewaju said, “The strongest motivation for organising the programme remains the institute’s commitment, towards creating opportunities for the productive engagement of diverse stakeholders on labour matters.”
He maintained that the institute will evolve a Nigerian social model that will be useful in defining development paths and mobilising different segments of society around agreed causes.
“It is also our position that dialogue, consensus building and participation, which are all features of democracy, should be essential elements in terms of the procedures and usages of the social model,” he said.
A justice of the National Industrial Court, Honourable Benedict Bakwaph Kanyip delivered the keynote address on the theme of the summit “Labour laws, institutional reforms and the development process in Nigeria.”
As the New Year approaches, Nigerians hope that participants that attended the summit will put to practice what they learnt and seize the opportunity presented by their interactions to build trust which is the most important ingredient in fostering industrial harmony.

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