A CRIPPLING ORGY OF STRIKES

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June 22, 1945 was a historic day in the political economy of Nigeria. It was the day Michael Imoudu, The then President of the Nigeria Labour Congress led Nigerian workers to their first nation-wide strike. It was as revolutionary as it was effective. The 1945 general strike was the largest workers strike in Africa at the time which involved over 50,000 white and blue-collar workers. The strike was successful as most of the workers’ demand for an increase in cost of living allowance to cushion the effect of skyrocketing prices of goods as a result of world war II was met in 1946 and backdated to 1945. It needs be emphasized that an earlier increase favoured mainly the European civil servants at the expense of their Nigerian counterparts.

June 2014. Nigeria is reeling under the yoke of all manner of industrial strike actions with some having gone on for as long as 10 months! It would appear that apart from the insurgency in the North and the pathetic power situation in the country, the next major threat to social and economic progress are the many debilitating strike actions by various sections of workers unions across the country.

strike pic

Strikes became common during the Industrial Revolution, when mass labour became important in factories and mines. In most countries, strike actions were quickly made illegal, as factory owners had far more political power than workers. Most western countries partially legalized striking in the late 19th or early 20th centuries.

It would appear that in recent years there is no day one union/association or the other has not abandoned their duties to the ultimate peril of the national economy and the people they are meant to serve. Without doubt, no country can make significant progress with constant strike actions from virtually all sections of the economy. The cumulative loss can be best imagined.

A look at the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Universities (ASUU), for instance gives us an insight into the dire consequences prolonged and repeated industrial actions can foist on the nation. A brief look at the history of strikes embarked upon by the union reveals the following numbing statistics: 1999- 5 months; 2001-3 months; 2002- 2 weeks; 2003- 6 months (ended in 2004); 2005- 3 days; 2006- 1 week; 2007-3 months; 2008-1 week; 2009- 4 months; 2010- 5months and 1 week; 2011- 3 months (ended in 2012)and 2013- 7Months. Meanwhile, various schools have also been shut down over long periods of time that strike actions were embarked upon by the The Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities (NASU) as well as protests/riots by students. The scenario is replicated in the polytechnics whose lecturers have been on a 10-month strike. The odious decay of our tertiary education is the unpalatable harvest from these forced closures. Doctors, oil workers, aviation workers, maritime workers, teachers, civil servants, museum workers and even the Nigerian Police are not left out in this orgy of strike actions with attendant avoidable loss of lives, property, opportunity, income and peace of mind.

At the heart of most of the agitations leading to these strikes are the issues of better remuneration and provision of relevant infrastructure and tools of trade. It appears that respective government teams have often made promises that they either could not keep or were unwilling to keep.           Therefore, we find unions going on strike on issues that were first discussed as long as ten years ago. This is quite unfortunate. BRANDPOWER believes that if issues are treated with sincerity of purpose by the government of the day and the various union leaders, we would be able to arrive at win-win agreements that are practical, implementable and in the best interest of the nation. We have no other choice than to adopt this approach as the ordinary citizens are the greatest losers in this unending strike calls. The country, after all, belongs to us all, the institutions belong to us, the government belongs to us and most importantly, the resources belong to each and every Nigerian.

BRANDPOWER advocates strongly that the federal government as well as various state governments who are embroiled in these avoidable debacle with various unions should as a matter of urgency set up an Emergency Central Crack Negotiating Team to be led by the a high-ranking cabinet official to discuss and dispense of all these strike issues and thereafter adopt a kind of Marshall Plan set up and implement all agreements as and when due. The affected workers and unionists must also be prepared to show understanding (while insisting on the ‘greater good’) in the light of available resources. As no football team can win laurels if they are in frequent lock-outs, so also Nigeria cannot be a great nation-brand if half the time we are not at work.