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JOURNAL OF RESEARCH IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT VOLUME 8 NO 1, JUNE, 2010


COLLECTIVE BARGAINING AS A STRATEGY FOR INDUSTRIAL CONFLICT MANAGEMENT IN NIGERIA

 

Olufemi Adejare Adewole
Department of Sociology, University of Ilorin, Ilorin
E-mail: femodav2004@yahoo.com
and
Olukemi Grace Adebola
Department of Educational Foundations, Federal College of Education, Okene

 

Abstract
The main thrust of this study was to investigate the strength of collective bargaining as a strategy for Industrial conflict management and Industrial harmony among 5 manufacturing Industries randomly sampled in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria. With the use of a questionnaire administered to 100 respondents, an empirical study of a descriptive type was carried out on the selected manufacturing industries to determine the role played by collective bargaining in the resolution of industrial conflicts and promotion of industrial harmony at the workplace. Techniques of data analysis were mainly by the use of non-parametric statistics which included simple frequency distributions and percentage values from opinion information derived on the Likert 5- point scale. The major finding of the study revealed that the frequent eruption of industrial conflicts between employers and employees in Nigeria generally, can be effectively managed through collective negotiation and consultation with the workers’ representatives. The paper therefore recommends that both public and private organizations and all stakeholders in Industrial relations should encourage regular review of labour agreement and effective employer-employee consultation and negotiation so as to reduce conflicts at the workplace and thereby promote industrial harmony and enhance productivity.

 

______________________________________________________________________________
Keywords: Collective bargaining, industrial conflicts, consultation, negotiation, organization

 


Introduction
The concept of conflict is multi-dimensional. However, according to Ubeku (1985), conflict is sequence of interaction between groups in society, between groups and government, and between individuals. Conflict exists in the workplace as it does in many other parts of life. Conflict is inevitable in labour-management relations, but without cooperation based upon an ideology that makes it possible to develop constructive industrial relations, the marvels of modern technology and industrialization may lead to disaster (Ubeku 1958). Organizational conflict is the discord that occurs when the goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those individuals or groups block or frustrate each others attempt to achieve their objectives. Conflict is an inevitable part of organizational life since the goals of different stakeholders such as managers and staff are often incompatible (Jones et al., 2000). 
Fajana (1995) defined industrial conflict as the inability of the employers and employees to reach agreement on any issue connected with the subject of employers-employees’ interactions. He however pointed out that many discussions on industrial relation and conflict management simply refer to strike because it’s the most overt and significant aspect of industrial conflict. Ogunbameru and Oribabor (2000) agreed that industrial conflicts occur whenever clash interests/objectives exist in worker-management relations. Industrial conflict is expressed in different terms such as strike, strike action, industrial unrest, industrial disharmony, trade dispute, industrial dispute, etc. (Adeoti 19980). All these are concepts which express the existence of unhealthy relationship between key actors in an industrial setting (Ogunbameru and Oribabor, 2000).
Bagshaw (1998) notes that conflict is a fact of life, in organizations as well as other areas of life, as people compete for jobs, resources, power, acknowledgment and security; dealing with it is difficult because it arouses primitive emotions such as people feeling threatened. Basically, four types of organizational conflicts have been identified (Jones et al., 2000). There is interpersonal conflict, which has to do with conflict between individual members of an organization and occurs as a result of differences in their goals or values. The second type is intra-group conflict, which is the conflict that occurs within a group, team, or department; there is inter-group conflict, which arises between groups, teams or departments. The fourth type of conflict is known as inter-organizational conflict and occurs across organizations.

The causes of industrial conflicts can be broadly classified into two categories: economic and non-economic causes. The economic causes will include issues relating to compensation like wages, bonus, allowances, and conditions for work, working hours, leave and holidays without pay, unjust layoffs and retrenchments. The non economic factors will include victimization of workers, ill treatment by staff members, sympathetic strikes, political factors, indiscipline etc Benjamin and Hideaki, 2004).

Collective bargaining as a conflict management technique
The origin of collective bargaining lies in one of man's primary instincts; defence. In an industrial relations context this is defence of proper working conditions, secure employment and proper pay. Collective bargaining allowed this by gaining pay increases through the increased power of the workers as a joint force (Yesufu 1982, Taylor1986).

The ILO Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (1949) describes collective bargaining as:


"Voluntary negotiation between employers or employers' Organizations
 and workers' organizations, with a view to the regulation of terms and conditions of employment by collective agreements."


Adeoti (1998) defined collective bargaining as negotiations relating to terms of employment and conditions of work between an employer, a group of employers or an employers' organization on the one hand, and representative workers' organizations on the other, with a view to reaching agreement. A collective bargaining process generally consists of four types of activities- distributive bargaining, integrative bargaining, attitudinal restructuring and intra-organizational bargaining (Omole, 1983).

Yesufu (1982), Omole (1983), Unbek (1985) and Benjamin and Hideaki (2004) identified the essential features of collective negotiation as follow;

  1. Collective bargaining is a formalized process by which employers and independent trade unions negotiate terms and conditions of employment and the ways in which certain employment-related issues are to be regulated at national, organizational and workplace levels.
  1. It is a group process, wherein one group, representing the employers, and the other, representing the employees, sit together to negotiate terms of employment.

 

  1. Collective bargaining is a process in the sense that it consists of a number of steps.
  1. Collective Bargaining is continuous process. It enables industrial democracy to be effective. It uses cooperation and consensus for settling disputes rather than conflict and confrontation.

 

  1. Collective bargaining is a complementary process i.e. each party needs something that the other party has; labour can increase productivity and management can pay better for their efforts.

 Jones et al., (2000) therefore opined that if an organization is to achieve its goals, managers must be able to resolve conflict. That is, managers must be able to deal with or manage the conflict. Taylor (1986) suggested that the best way to resolve conflicts in labour-management relations is through collective bargaining and joint consultation between the management and representatives of labour.

Benjamin and Hideaki (2004) posited that collective bargaining is, essentially, a recognized way of creating a system of industrial jurisprudence. It acts as a method of introducing civil rights in the industry, that is, the management should be conducted by rules rather than arbitrary decision making. This agrees with NLC’s policy on collective bargaining which argues that collective bargaining goes beyond the process of negotiation between unions and employers on issues directly affecting conditions of employment. It is also a means of limiting unilateral decisions and actions by employers and governments, thereby strengthen industrial democracy. Thus, The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) recognized the following as the needs (importance) for collective bargaining in all sectors of the Nigeria economy;
(i) Given the importance of collective bargaining as the most effective process for winning improvements in the working conditions of workers in the workplace.
(ii) Given the fact that collective bargaining moderates the arbitrariness of employers and that it is an imperative for achieving and sustaining the primary purposes for which workers join unions.
(iii) The need to achieve social, political and economic transformation through increased productivity, job security, motivation and involvement in union activities.
(iv) The need to raise workers awareness, build and strengthen trust for unions and to broaden participation of workers and trade unions in policy formulation and implementation.
(v) The need to ensure speedy resolution of conflicts.
Theoretical framework
The have been several attempts to explain the concept of industrial conflict in relevant literature.
Marxist’s explanation of industrial conflict for instance, generally is based social stratification and class differences that exist in any capitalist society (Marx and Engels, 1975). The thrust of this perspective is that conflict/discontent at the workplace can be seen as a product of specific forms of interaction (struggle) among certain historical forces and relations of production. The Marxist tradition explains that this struggle takes the form of imposing bourgeois values on the proletariat. The main thrust of the Marxist’s thesis on industrial conflict is that discord occurs when the goals, interests or values of different individuals or groups are incompatible and those individuals or groups block or frustrate each others attempt to achieve their objectives. Conflict is therefore seen as inevitable and trade unions are a natural response of workers to their exploitation by capitalists (Marx and Engels, 1975, Adeoti, 1998).
In the pluralistic perspective, organization is perceived as being made up of powerful and divergent sub-groups - management and trade unions. This approach sees conflicts of interest and disagreements between managers and workers over the distribution of profits as normal and inescapable. Consequently, the role of management would lean less towards enforcing and controlling and more toward persuasion and co-ordination. The core thrust of the pluralistic approach is that trade unions are legitimate representatives of employees. So, conflict should be dealt with by collective bargaining and is viewed not necessarily as a bad thing and if managed could in fact be channelled towards evolution and positive change. (Benjamin and Hideaki, 2004). The implication of this is that; union recognition should be encouraged and union representatives given scope to carry out their representative duties (Adeoti 1998, Ogunbameru and Oribabor 2000).
Unitary perspective on the other hand, perceived organization as an integrated and harmonious system, viewed as one happy family. A core assumption of unitary approach is that management and staff, and all members of the organization share the same objectives, interests and purposes; thus working together, hand-in-hand, towards the shared mutual goals. Furthermore, unitarism has a paternalistic approach where it demands loyalty of all employees. Trade unions are therefore, deemed as unnecessary in an organization where there exists mutual cooperation and conflict is perceived as disruptive (Richard, 1980).

Another approach views rapid social changes as a source of conflicts (Durkheim 1951). The main thrust of this school is that rapid industrialization and urbanization break down social groups, generate anomie, and consequently lead to conflict among different actors (Akpala, 1982).
Objectives of the study
In specific outline, the objectives if this study include;

  1. To investigate how best conflict and grievance can be managed at the work place and how industrial harmony can be promoted
  1. To critically investigate the correlation between industrial conflicts and employers-employees relationship at the work organization

 

  1. To suggest to both public and private business organizations the best approach to industrial conflict management in their effort to ensure harmonious labour-management relations and enhance productivity

 

  1. To investigate critically, the effects of industrial conflict on employees’ performance and the achievement of the overall objectives of the organization

 

Materials and methods
Social survey of a descriptive type was used for this study. Data for the study were generated mainly through multi-stage sampling technique, by the use of questionnaire administered to 100 respondents randomly selected among management Staff and Union members from 5 manufacturing industries in Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria.

Out of a total of 100 questionnaires distributed to respondents on their perception of the best way to resolved industrial conflicts and to promote harmony at the work place, only 85 were successfully completed and turned in by the respondents and this is considered statistically significant to proceed with the study. The questionnaire was divided into two (2) Sections; Section A elicited information on the socio-economic background of the respondents while Section B focused on the perception of respondents on the best approach to industrial conflicts management and industrial harmony at their organizations.

Techniques of data analysis were mainly by the use of non-parametric statistics which included simple frequency distributions and percentage values from opinion information derived on the Likert 5- point scale weighted viz: Strongly Agreed (SA) = 5, Agreed (AG) = 4, Strongly Disagreed (SD) = 3, Disagreed(DS) = 2, Undecided (UD) = 1.
Study area
This study was conducted in 5 manufacturing industries in Ibadan, Oluyole Local Government Area, Oyo State, Nigeria.
Quality control
Validity test and pre-test of the self-administered questionnaires used were done by Students and Lecturers in the Department of Sociology, University of Ilorin, Nigeria. A reliability co-efficient of 0.85 was obtained with the use of Pearson Product Moment Correlation co-efficient.

Data analysis
Data obtained through the instrument of self-administered questionnaire were analysed using simple percentage and frequency distribution and the results are discussed under the various sub-headings as they related to the subject matter.


Results and discussions
Table 1: Respondents’ Perception of the Causes of Industrial Conflicts

 

Factors

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Poor Consultation

 

36

 

42

 

Bad Economic Situation

 

6

 

7

 

Poor Workers Welfare

 

33

 

39

 

Employers Decadence

 

10

 

12

 

Total

 

85

 

100

Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

 

Table 2: Respondents’ Perception on how Grievance should be made known to Employers

 

Responses

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Consultation

 

61

 

72

 

Demonstration

 

12

 

14

 

Strike Action

 

12

 

14

 

Riot

 

0

 

0

 

Total

 

85

 

100

            Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

 

Table 3: Respondents’ Perception on Whether Strike Action is Counter Productive

 

Responses

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Strongly Agreed

 

52

 

61

 

Strongly Disagreed

 

10

 

12

 

Agree

 

12

 

14

 

Disagreed

 

6

 

7

 

Undecided

 

5

 

6

 

Total

 

85

 

100

            Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

Table 4: Respondents’ Perception on how to Reduce Industrial Conflict at the Workplace

 

Responses

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Improve Employees’ Welfare

 

34

 

40

 

Regular Labour Agreement Review

 

51

 

60

 

Retrenchment/ Layoff

 

0

 

0

 

Bribing of Union Leaders

 

0

 

0

 

Total

 

85

 

100

            Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

Table 5: Respondents’ Perception on the most effective Approach in Conflict Management

 

Responses

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Collective Bargaining/Negotiation

 

66

 

78

 

Consolidation

 

0

 

0

 

Confrontation

 

             10            

 

12

 

Demonstration

 

9

 

10

 

Total

 

85

 

100

                        Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

Table 6: Respondents’ Perception on how best Industrial Harmony can be achieved

 

Responses

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Collective Bargaining/Negotiation

 

45

 

53

 

Petition/Criticisms

 

20

 

24

 

Demonstration

 

             13            

 

15

 

Strike Action

 

7

 

8

 

Total

 

85

 

100

                        Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Table 7: Respondents’ Perception on whether Collective Bargaining can achieve Industrial Harmony

 

Responses

Frequency Distribution

No. of Employee

Percentage

 

Strongly Agreed

 

70

 

82

 

Strongly Disagreed

 

0

 

0

 

Agreed

 

             10            

 

12

 

Disagreed

 

5

 

6

 

Undecided

 

0

 

0

 

Total

 

85

 

100

                        Source: Researcher’s Survey, 2009

 


Discussion of major findings
Table 1 above shows respondents’ perception on the causes of conflict at the workplace. A cursory look at the table reveals that the issue of poor consultation and employees’ welfare are the two closely related and complementary causes of industrial conflict rated by 42% and 39% respectively while bad economic situation and employer’s decadence were considered as the causes of industrial conflict by 7% and 12 % of the respondents respectively.

Table 2 shows respondents’ opinion on how grievance should be made known to the employer. A careful look at the table exposed that majority of the respondents (72%) considered consultation between employers and employees as the best method of making grievance known at the workplace. On the contrary, 14% and 14% respectively considered demonstration and strike action as the best approach of making grievance known to the employers.

Table 3 above shows respondents’ perception on whether strike action is truly counter productive. Majority of the respondents agreed that strike action is injurious to productivity and the organizational objective. For instance, over 61% strongly agreed to this view while only 12%, 7% and 6% strongly disagreed, disagreed and are undecided respectively.

Table 4 shows respondents’ opinion on how industrial conflict can be reduced at the workplace. The table shown that improving worker’s welfare and regular review of labour agreements are the two major ways of reducing conflict. Table 5 surveys respondents’ perception on the most effective approach to conflict management as it relates to labour-management relations. It could be deduced from the table that 78% of the respondents viewed collective bargaining as the best conflict management approach at the workplace. In the same vein, a cursory look at Table 6 revealed that 53% of the respondents believed that industrial harmony can be achieved through collective bargaining between employers and union representatives.

Table 7 shows respondents’ opinion on whether collective bargaining can achieve industrial harmony at the workplace. A careful look at the table revealed that over 82% of the respondents agreed that collective bargaining can truly lead to harmonious labour-management relations at the work organization.
Summary and conclusion    
An attempt has been made in this study through a case study research to examine how collective bargaining can be employed as a strategy for industrial conflict management and to promote harmonious worker-management relations at the workplace generally. A critical look at the respondents’ views has amply demonstrated that collective bargaining has gained prominent degree of recognition as an effective approach to conflict management and industrial harmony not only in the literature but also in practice. This agrees with Ubeku (1985) and Fashoyin (1992) findings that strike is destructive both to the employer, employees and the society at large, leading to decrease in productivity, loss of contract year, loss of profit resulting from loos of revenue, net earnings and idle equipment .

Recommendations
Findings from this study have revealed that collective bargaining is the most effective approach to conflict management and promotion of harmonious labour-management relations at the workplace. Also that confrontation, demonstration or strike actions are injurious not only to the employers and the employees but also to the society at large.

It is against this background that this paper strongly recommends that governments, business organizations, employer of labours, employees, non-profit organizations and all stakeholders in industrial relations should endeavour to embrace collective bargaining, consultation with the union representatives and negotiation between employers and employees as the machinery to resolve industrial conflicts in their efforts to; promote industrial harmony, enhance employees’ performance, increase productivity and improve the living standard of the generality of the people. Also that governments and employers of labour should ensure regular review of labour agreements and thrive to improve the workers’ welfare, as these two factors have been revealed in this study as the major causes of industrial conflicts.

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