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Igbaji Patrick
Department of Business Administration, Cross River University of Technology, Calabar


The paper set out to assess the impact of repetitious industrial disputes on the ability of tertiary institutions in Nigeria’s Cross River State to achieve the objectives for which they were set up.Data collectected from both secondary and primary sources were analysed using the Pearson Product Moment coefficient of correlation. The findings were that work stoppages were detrimental to goal attainment of the said higher institutions of learning.

Keywords: Goals; stirkes; achievement; industrial conflict

Nigerian economy in the recent past has been experiencing a spate of industrial crises and tension. The educational sub-sector generally and tertiary institutions in particular, have not been spared as shown by current events. Nwaocha (1984) attributed unhealthy developments like this to the absence of a definite and effective industrial relations policy that takes into cognition the prevailing economic situations in the country. He argues further that an effective and proactive industrial relations policy follows the pattern of development of economic activities that give rise to these relations. In this way, it becomes imperative that the industrial relations policies are kept under constant review with a view to bringing them in line with the level and nature of prevailing economic conditions.

The work environment generally is a collectivity of various individuals and groups from different cultural, social, political and economic backgrounds. Given this scenario, the interests and expectations of workmen from their organizations is bound to differ. Workers collective interest is however, given expression through workers organization¾the trade union. The pursuit of workers rights and interests in the work place particularly in Nigeria, is constrained by unequal distribution of both political and economic powers between labour and owners of enterprises. Negotiations and collective bargaining as activities of industrial relations became very necessary following the disagreement between management and workers (employers and employees), on matters pertaining to either policy formulation on the welfare of workers in an organization, or workers participation in decision making process on matters that border on their interest and welfare. Diejomaoh (1979), argues that even when workers organizations officially obtain registration and recognition from both government and their respective managements, agitations for improved conditions and input to decision is still considered as dysfunctional.

Agitations by workers unions for improved conditions of service and other welfare packages are almost always not in consonance with the interest and expectations of employers-the very foundation of industrial conflicts. To register their resentment over management show of superiority and insensitivity to workers plight, organized labour in the recent past have resorted to the use of various pressure tactics ranging from strike actions, picketing, boycotts, overtime ban, intimidation, active non-compliance (ANC) and a host of others. Thus, industrial conflict has become a recurring issue in all sectors of the Nigerian economy including the educational sub-sector with attendant negative consequences for various stakeholders.

Statement of the problem    
Workers views generally are expressed by the workers unions and the extent to which they persuade workers to remain on their duty posts, work productivity, and ultimately achieve the goals of an organization, depends largely on the attitude of employers to the trade union. Most employers’ attitude to the trade union, particularly in the tertiary institutions where the government (state or federal) is both employer and umpire, has been hostile. The union therefore finds it difficult to persuade unsatisfied and

unwilling workers to increase their productivity to enable organizations achieve their goals.

Educational sub-sector, specifically tertiary institutions in Nigeria and the Cross River State in particular, have been recording series of industrial unrests in the recent past. The effects of repeated and abrupt closure of universities due to industrial bluffs on academic programmes and the goal for which they were established can better be imagined. The University of  Calabar and Cross River University of Technology; the major tertiary institutions in the State have suffered tremendous setbacks as a result of incessant workers action. This problem is underscored by the fact that unions in the two institutions operate in accordance with directives from their respective National Executive Councils (NEC).

Educational standard is now believed to be questionable. Many an academic calendar in the universities has been disorganized, with some academic sessions outrightly lost. Students’ academic performances have comparatively taken a nose dive, while various forms of examination malpractices are said to be on the increase. The situation has assumed such an alarming dimension that the public now accuses the ‘ivory towers’ of turning out graduates that are ill-equipped in character and learning to contribute to the growth and development of the nation. This paper tries to identify the factors responsible for the prevalence of industrial conflicts in tertiary institutions, the impact; negative or otherwise of these job actions, and measures that could possibly be put in place to arrest the malady.

In a bid to further examine the fundamental causes of industrial disharmonies and their effects on organizational goal-attainment, and to achieve the other objectives of this study, two hypotheses have been formulated thus:
H01 : There is no significant relationship between industrial unrests and attainment of set goals of tertiary institutions in Cross River State.
H02  :  Incessant work stoppages in the higher educational sub-sector are not significantly related to students academic performance.

This study is particularly significant as it was conducted at a time when almost all the unions in the universities are threatening another round of job actions if their demands are not met.

Theoretical Perspective
Rahim (1992) sees conflict as an interactive process which is manifested in incompatibility, disagreement, or difference within or between social entities (that is individuals, groups, organizations, etc). This position agrees with Gardiner and Simmon (1992) that any divergence of interests, objectives or priorities between individuals, groups or organizations or non conformity to requirements of a task, activity or process, is a conflict situation. In their contribution, Sisk and Williams (1981) portray conflict as a struggle over resources or ideas between two or more parties. They argued that conflict is a process which begins when one party perceives that one or more of its concerns have been or about to be frustrated by another party.

Conflict can be both positive and negative as argued by Mullins (1996). He contends that although the traditional view associates the concept with negative features and situation which give rise to ineffectiveness or dysfunctional consequences, conflict is not necessarily a bad thing because it can be a catalyst for improvements in an organization when well managed.

In an industrial relation system, conflicts arise between workers and managers chiefly because of their differing ideologies and opposing interests. Conflict of this nature was defined by Kornhauser, Dubin and Rose (1954:13) to be “… the total range of behaviour and attitudes that express opposition and divergent orientations between individual owners and managers on the one hand, and the working people and their organization on the other”. This view suggests that industrial conflict is group-related and collective; although literature expressing a wider perspective of the phenomenon abound. Otobo (2000) presents a more realistic approach that industrial conflict reflects the height of inability of the parties in the industrial relations system; employers, employees and even the state to reach agreement on any issue connected with the object of employer - employee interaction. Expressed in

whatever form, either at individual or group level, industrial unrest has become a focal concept in industrial relations system.

Internal and external causes or sources may predispose parties in a work place to conflict orientations. Internally, industrial conflicts originate basically from the opposed nature of the interests of the employer(s) and employee(s). In the other hand, government’s industrial and economic policies, the nature of labour legislation, the behaviour of political and economic classes and national economic mismanagement are potential external causes of industrial conflicts. These views are captured variously by Hyman (1975), Hyman (1972), Obisi (1996), and Stoner (1989).
Industrial conflicts manifest in various forms as highlighted by Parker et al. (1977). It may take the form of strike, picketing, boycotts, overtime ban, intimidation and lockout, depending on prevailing circumstances. Although each of the above variety of industrial conflicts, disputes or actions have grim consequences on the productivity of an organization, the strike action remains the most unpalatable and potent weapon in the arsenal of labour. This explains in part why to the ordinary person, industrial conflict and strike are synonymous. A strike or lockout, when in force signifies a complete breakdown of collective bargaining.

Though most labour-management conflicts and workplace conflicts are considered tractable, creative management efforts is still required to avert the adverse effects that this may portend for the achievements of organizational goals. A study conducted by Okotoni and Okotoni (2003) on conflict management in secondary schools in Osun state, Nigeria, clearly underscored the impact of conflict on organization goals-attainment. The result of the study shows among other things, disruption in academic calendar and programmes, hostility, suspicion and withdrawal from school activities. On the national level, the scholars reported that government suffers from financial losses from closure of schools, while students and their parents suffer unquantifiable losses. They further submitted that the above anomaly have contributed in no small measure to a steady decline in the quality of education as some students resorted to examination malpractice to make up for the lost time during

conflicts in schools especially where these have resulted to closures

Ananaba (1969) and Offiong (1983) variously reported that the 1945 general strike in Nigeria paralyzed economic activities for about 44 days. This means that industrial actions do not only cause losses in material resources, but also result in losses in human resources. We deduce from the foregoing that negative consequences of unguarded industrial disagreement on an organization, the nation, and indeed the entire economy can be more far reaching than imagined

Conflict theory
Karl Marx (1818-1883), the great German theorist and political activist, is credited with sowing the seeds for the several theories that emphasize social conflict. Marx’s conflict theory emphasizes a materialist interpretation of history, dialectical method of analysis (dialectical materialism), a critical stance towards existing social arrangements and political programme of revolution or, at least reform.

Marx began his assumption that economic organization, especially the ownership of property, determines the organization of the rest of the society. In other words, the most important determination of social life is the work people are doing, especially work that result in provision of the basic necessities of life, food, clothing and shelter. Marx thought that the way work is socially organized and the technology used in production have a strong impact on every other aspect of society. He maintained that every thing of value in society results from human labour. The central institution of capitalist society according to Marx is private property, a system by which capital is controlled by a small minority of the population. This arrangement leads to two opposed classes, the owners of capital (the bourgeoisie) and the workers (the proletariat) whose only property is their own labour time, which there have to sell to the capitalists. Owners are seen as making profits by paying workers less than their work is worth, thus exploiting them. Herein lies the crux of industrial conflict.

Other conflict theorists like Ralf Dahrendorf in his “ class and class conflict in industrial society” (1959), Lewis Coser (1956), Randall Collins, etc;

have made divergent contributions about the functionality of conflict which cannot be given detailed expression in a discourse of this magnitude.

The study was conducted in the University of Calabar, Calabar, and Cross River University of Technology, Calabar. The Cross River University of Technology however, has campuses at Obubra (Agriculture) and Ogoja (management sciences) all in Cross River State. A survey research design was adopted to gather data from respondents in the two institutions. The subjects for the study comprise all academic and non-academic staff of the two institutions who are members of unions. There are about 9,000 staff in both institutions as recorded by the establishment units of both universities. This group of people was considered appropriate for the study because there is some familiar with cases of industrial conflicts in the tertiary institutions. Furthermore, they belong to the major unions, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and National Association for Academic Technologists (NAAT) for academic staff, and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) and Non Academic Staff Union (NASU) for senior and junior non-academic staff respectively.

A simple random sampling technique was used to select a sample of five hundred (500) respondents from both institutions. A break down of the figure shows that three hundred and fifty (350) were randomly selected from the University of Calabar, while one hundred and fifty (150) respondents were from Cross River University of Technology. The technique employed by the researcher was the hat and draw method (balloting). In this method the researcher collected staff lists from various departments and numbers were assigned to them. The researcher then wrote all the numbers on pieces of papers, roll each paper slip into a ball, mixed these paper balls in a hat and then ask one person to blindly draw the required number of departments. In a similar way the required subjects were randomly selected from various departments for the study.

A five points Likert type questionnaire ranging from strongly agree to strongly disagree was the main instrument used for data collection. The scoring was done ranging from 5 points for strongly agree to 1 point for strongly disagree. The scoring was however, reversed for negativity worded items. Personal interviews were also conducted with some principal officers in both institutions. Pearson’s Product-Moment Correlation Coefficient analysis was adopted to test the hypothesis formulated thus:

r    =                       nåxy  -  (åx) (åy)                                 
Ö[(Nåx2) - (åx)2] - [(Nåy2) - (åy)2]

Where r = correlation coefficient
N = total number of respondents
X = independent variable
Y = dependent variable

Result and discussion

Table 1: Pearson’s product-moment correlation analysis of the relationship between industrial unrests and attainment of set goals

N = 500






Attainment of set goals










Industrial unrests





Significant at .05, critical r =.195, df =498

The result of the analysis of hypothesis one in table 1 shows that the calculated r-value of 0.84 is greater than the critical r-value of .195 at.05 level of significance with 498 degrees of freedom. It means that the calculated r value is significant since it is higher than critical value. The result shows that there is a significant relationship between industrial unrest and attainment of set goals of tertiary institutions in Cross River State.

Table 2: Pearson’s product-moment correlation analysis of the relationship between work stoppages and students academic performance.
N = 500






Incessant work stoppages










Students academic performance





Significant at .05, critical r = .195, df = 498

Analysis of hypothesis two on table 2 shows that the calculated r-value of 0.78 is greater than the critical r-value of .195 at .05 level of significance with 498 degrees of freedom. Since r cal. is > r tab., the analysis is significant. The results therefore means that incessant work stoppages in the higher education sub-sector is significantly related to students’ academic performance. In other words, the more strikes are recorded in the university system, the lower the academic performance of students.


This paper has shown that there is a strong or significant relationship between industrial crises and achievement of goals of tertiary institutions in Cross River State. The finding is supported by Beach (1975) and Flippo (1980) who sees conflicts, particularly the strike as counter-productive and where possible should be avoided. Karsh (1977) reported that the consequence for a company that is unable to deliver orders for some months due to worker stoppages is a loss in several important accounts. Furthermore, Mullins (1996) observed that extreme conflict in organization could have very off setting or even tragic consequences for some people, and adverse effects on organizational performance. Intermittent disruptions of academic activities due to industrial crisis in the views of  Okotoni and Okotoni (2003), negatively affects the quality of education and thus the quality of manpower available for national development. Such is the position of this paper that the quality of graduates from tertiary institutions in Cross River State and Nigeria in general will remain suspect with the recurrence of workers collective actions.

In view of the critical role of education in human capital development and by extension, national development, this paper recommends the following measures to forestall the threat to future academic standards in tertiary institutions in the country. Employers and labour unions should appreciate and adopt the use of collective bargaining to prevent the escalation of workplace disagreements and disputes into work stoppages. Management and government should endeavor to always implement collective agreements reached with employees to the letter. Collective bargaining is reduced to a fruitless past time when employers shy away or renege on the agreements.

A proactive industrial relations policy should be put in place by the government to always anticipate   
and respond to economic changes that affect the welfare of workers. Government should pay 
particular attention to adequate funding of education to create a favourable learning environment and
improved working conditions for staff. Proper and formalized strategies should be adopted

in managing conflicts on campuses of Nigerian universities. Where the internal machinery fails,
consideration should be given to statutory mechanisms of dispute resolutions.   

The survival of an organization, particularly social systems like educational institutions is the responsibility of all the major stake holders. All unions in the sub-sector and management should therefore exhibit the spirit of give and take during negotiations. Attainment of lofty goals of higher educational institutions in Cross River State and the nation in general will be enhanced and falling standards shored up with a drastic reduction in industrial actions on campus. This paper consider this position realistic since conflict can not be completely eliminated.



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