The Only Weapon Available to Public Sector Employees in Nigeria in their Agitation for Better Working Conditions
Keywords:Strike Action, Public Sector, Collective Bargaining, Collective Agreement
As distasteful as strike action is, it has obviously become the last resort of public sector employees in Nigeria in their agitation for improved working conditions. Government remains the largest employer of labour in Nigeria, especially in the public sector as well as the umpire in the industrial relations system of the country. Ironically, this same government is the biggest obstacle to the smooth functioning of the industrial relations system. Government hardly embraces dialogue and collective bargaining in dealing with issues pertaining to the welfare and improvement in the conditions of work of public sector employees. Whenever, it deems it fit to negotiate with workers represented by their trade unions, it does not keep to its own side of the agreements reached during such negotiations. Public sector workers in Nigeria and their unions have therefore come to the realization that the only weapon they have in actualizing their demands for better working conditions is strike action. This is because that is the only language government understands and it is only that course of action that elicits positive response from the government. This explains why there is incessant strike actions organized by workers and their unions in the public sector in Nigeria. Based on the foregoing, this paper examines why public-sector employees and unions frequently resort to strike action in pressing their demands from government. The theoretical thrust of the paper is Max Weber’s social action theory. The paper contends that unless government begins to apply a more responsible and sincere approach in dealing with her employees and their unions, strike action will remain a frequent occurrence in Nigeria’s public sector. It is therefore recommended that government must begin to embrace collective bargaining and dialogue in negotiating the working conditions of her employees and also cultivate the habit of honouring collective agreements reached with workers and their unions.