Managing Industrial Disputes in Higher Institutions in Enugu State

 Managing Industrial Disputes in Higher Institutions in Enugu State


Industrial dispute is said to occur whenever there is disagreement between the employer and employees on agreed terms of contract leading to partial or complete stoppage of work.

The trade union decree number 31 of 1973 defined a trade dispute as any dispute between employers and workers or between workers which D connected with the employment or non-employment of he terms of employment of non-employment of the terms of employment or conditions of work of any person while Ubeku (1975) defined grievance as real or imagined complaint by an employee against his employer based on the alleged misinterpretation misapplication or non-application of the terms and conditions of employment. Anaba (1976) observed that disputes can exist between employers and employees or among trade union. According to him there are certain agreement on condition of service remuneration and measure to improve workers welfare need by all parties in a central of employment. A breach of this agreement always leads to disagreement by any of the parties. The ensuring grievance often leads to protest and reaction. Anaba stress that any such condition leading to a industrial disputes industrial dispute can manifest as trade dispute strike lock- in lock – out work to rule sit down strive etc.

Industrial disputes among union members of a trade union rose when disagreement among such member and their leaders result in partial or compete stoppage of work thereby demanding the alternation of the employers or government for intention. Some members of different trade union may disagrees over an issue of common interact which may result in industrial action of great dimension.

The conclusion stress that industrial dispute is a common feature of capitalist economic were a great deal of the workers livelihood depend on negotiated wages and welfare conditions


Industrial relation referee to the relationship existing between employers and employees in an organizaiton. Aungwom 2002, say that industrial relations could be defined as the network of social relationship between the employees and their unions employers and their associations and   government and their numerous agencies in their attempts to regulate terms and conditions of employment and perform other function that directly or indirectly concern the initiation and sustenance of peaceful and purposeful labour management relations which involve applying machinery dealing with complaints grievance and disputed in an organizaiton.

Mgbada 1997 a trade unionist has noted that this relationship between employees and employers is at its best when workers are organized and unionized. In a paper presented during a workshop on deter rioting industrial relations in the country he stressed that its is very important for employees to be organized under trade union.

According to him organization of worker should be on the basis of their trade so that members of same profession will consult each trade union. This will bring them together in the interest of their welfare and profession. In this way the member will constitute a strong force with which they will confront their employers be private business owner or the government. To ensure that there is cordial relation between the employers and the employees the later should be organized controlled and directed through effective leadership. Mgbada concluded that this will help in the running of a smooth government and the important of the quality and standard of living of the workers both being factors that will ensure national development.

Aminu 1976 highlight that the existence of cordial relationship between employers and employees given the employees sense of belonging in the organization job satisfaction and make them dedicated that the key to the success and growth of business organization is increased productivity by workers. He further stressed that in addition to equipped the workers adequately they will be more productive when the working environment is comfortable or conducive this implies industrial harmony. It means that there is mutual understanding between the workers and the employers.

Julivs Onah the former vice chancellor Enugu State University of science and technology emphasized on the need for industrial in a paper he presenter during a workshop on industrial peace in our tertiary institutions. He stressed that industrial peace was paramount for educational development. He decree that incessant industrial dispute which now characterized out educational system stressed that no society ever advances educationally unless there is mutal understanding between academic non-academic staff and the authority on one hand and between he students and the authority on the other head. According to him the potentiality for progress is often high in an organization especially in higher institutions if the environment is conducive for all person working there.   He therefore advised academic and non-academic staff to always strive for the thing that will sure that there is always industrial peace in the institutions.


There are various situations that lead to disputes within any given environment. The types or from depend largely on types of individual involved in the dispute and the environment in which the dispute is taken place.

The following types of disputes has been identified ;

–        Dispute between members of family

–        Dispute confined to two individual in an organizaiton

–        Dispute between institutions (as between union and management)

–        Dispute between ethnic group or communities such as racial dispute in the united state

–        Dispute between nations

Anugwom 2003 split dispute in two types that is individual disputes and collective dispute. He explained individual disputes as those disputes that arise as a result of one employee feeling of grieved example non promotion denial rights inappropriate appraisal and termination of   individual appointment. More often then not individual grievances often degenerate into collective disputes. While collective disputes are or between the local union and management. It can be the collective desire for wages to be increased, general condition of employment and violation of matters on collective agreement.

According to Ukaje 1978 industrial dispute between institutions such as between management and union. In higher institutions of learning priority goal of governing council is to impact knowledge in students while the objective of the union is to better the lots of their members by extracting more and more benefit form the employer in forms of wages working incentives and so on.

In universities the management consists of the vice chancellors deputy vice chancellors, the senates   registrar dean of faculties and head of departments.

In the Polytechnics, the management consists of the Rector vice Rector the director of various faculties Bursar, Registrar, Head of departments.

The objectives of the management of these institutions defers from of the enterprises where profit maximization is the sole objective. Since they are not principally organized to generate revenue they are organized provide solved and qualitative education within the resources allocated to them by the state or nation as the case may be.

Within this divergent and conflicting objectives of the unions and management our higher institution cannot be said to be dispute free


Even within ordinary families and societies social disputes are known to have some undesirable consequence. In private organizations industrial dispute normally have some relating effect on these organizations.

In this analysis Ugbaje 1977 stated that the first casualty of industrial dispute is the business itself. He explained that man are usually lost as soon as workers put down their tools in the higher institution of leaning the students become the first casualty of the dispute. According to Ugbaja as the industrial dispute deepened and the strike become protracted students are at home none of them is induced to read. Months are know to have been lost in many industrial dispute in these institution the result is that many students no longer graduate at the supposed time as they have to complete their studies but at a longer period.

In this own study Ekeyanwu 1979 observed that industrial disputes usually leads to declining productivity in workers. In relation to lecturers their is also decline in productivity. According to him productivity is measured in term of man- out put per hour. He stressed that programme which lectures control have completed within a longer period of time, which implies that man output per hours is smaller. The implication is that productivity of lectures is usually declines because of industrial disputes.

Industrial dispute in these institution have some social implications. First it has some psychological effects on parents who train those students in schools prolonging the education period means making them pay more on their children’s education. This means adding to the problem of hardship.

Secondary some students usually see such period as one that will be used to engage in socially undesirable behaviour such as initiation into secret cult prostitution and other sharp practices.

According to Udenze such period usually promotes so much of anti-social behaviour that much is left to be desired in higher learning and tertiary institution.


Generally speaking all the dispute especially those of intra and inert union cases have resulted in litigations on the law courts some disputes had led to institution of more then 40 court cases involving different trade union. It has become the order to take their inter or intra union disputes to civil court mater than use the settlement machinery provided for them under the trade dispute decree No 22 of 1976 (amendment) the decree mandate both parties in the dispute to first attempt to settle their disputes by themselves.

If there exist agreed means of settlement of the dispute apart from this decree whether by virtue of the provisions of any agreement between organizations representing the interest of the employer and organization of employees or any other agreement the parties to the dispute shall first attempt to settle it be that means

If this attempt fails or if no such agree means of settlement exists the parties should within seven days of the failure of dispute meet or through their representative under the presence of a mediator mutually agreed upon and appointed by or on behalf of the parties with a view to achieving amicable settlement of the dispute.

According to section 3 (2) of the decree if within fourteen (14) days of the data on which a mediator is appointed the disputes is not settled the matter should be reported to the minister of labour and productivity within fourteen days describing the parties disagreements and the steps already taken.

According to section 6 (1) the minister may appoint a conciliator from labour experts in the ministry for the purpose of resolving the dispute. The conciliator shall inquire into the cause and the circumstance of the dispute under consideration and try to negotiate with the parties for the purpose of settlement. If settlement of the dispute is reached within 14 days of his appointment the conciliator shall forward a memorandum of the terms of the settlement duly signed by the parties involved to the minister and it becomes biding on them the data it was signed. On the other hand if settlement is not achieved within fourteen days a report is sent to the minister who will within another fourteen days refer the case to arbitrations.

According to section 9 (10) the industrial arbitrations panel (1AP) shall make its award within 42days of its constitution if the settlement is achieved. If there is no objective raised within 21days the award will be published but if there is any objective to the award of the 1AP within the time allowed by the decree the minister will then refer the dispute to the national industrial court (NIC).

According to section 10 (2) the award of the national industrial court shall be final and shall be binding on the employers and employees to whom relate as from the data of the award. However within the past decade there has been a growing tendency among union leaders to take their disputes to civil courts instead of the   1AP for settlement. As a matter of fact some dispute have been pending in courts for years while some have resulted to industrial unrest.

In respect of trade disputes in higher institution that failed to be resolved amicably and which threatened the industrial peace of the educational system the federal government has always need an iron hand in bringing it to a summary end.

According to Ejiofor 1989 the resultant strike of academic staff union of universities (ASUU) members in 1988 and 1993 were considered illegal under the provisions of the industrials relations decree 1976 which prohibiting strike or lock-out over dispute that have been referred tot eh 1AP the government then ordered ASUU to call of the strike action within 48 hours. ASUU agreed the ultimatum. The government therefore proscribed the union and ordered officers to surrender the union assets to the government. In a recent development the federal government has also proscribed ASUU and all other associations in the universities in a bid to establishing lasting industrial peace in over institution of higher learning.

According to Nechekwube 1994 these incidents reflect very clearly how pervading government control and influence in the conduct of employer and employee relation of higher learning. He observed that government reformed in the late 1980 were intended to create a mere orderly predicable and uncontrollable industrial peace in our institution of higher learning.

But this intention has not materialized as lectures strikes are the more numerous lasting longer with more members now involving then before the 1980.


Institution dispute usually resulted from disagreement between employees and employers on one head and between unions on other hand. The upsurge in strike and industrial tension in the private sector could be attributed to the deep-rooted suspicion between employers and workers as well as intra union crisis. This was assessment made by Oladipo 1978 in an article titled “strikes and lock-out peace insight” according to her the major factor which contributed largely to the industrial dispute in institution of higher learning is the economic council of the late 1980’s and 1990’s

Ejiofor stated that the second major industrial action embarked upon by institutions of higher learning in Nigeria resulted form the disagreement between the members of the academic staff union of universities (ASUU) and the federal military government in 1982. He stated that in July 1988 the members of ASUU embarked on a strike action against their employees the national universities commission/ federal ministry of education and their individual universities. The issues at state were the non-payment of the salary adjustment and fringe benefits announced by the government in January 1988. The question of joint consultative council between ASUU members and their employers the re-opening of the universities which had been closed down as a result of the disturbance that occurred earlier and the right of the individual university senates to order the closure or the re-opening of the universities.

Another major industrial action occurred in 1993 in the higher institutions. The issue at state were much the same as the previous one. According to Ugbaja the federal government and ASUU representatives had reached on agreements on some vital issues affecting the welfare of the employees. In order to alleviate their sufferings perpetuated by the unregulated economy. ugbaga said that government often envisaged whenever it was for them to fulfill their obligation. The reluctant of the government to fulfill this obligation resulted in strike by members of ASUU. In article presented by Nnekere (1996) he traced the most recent industrial action by ASUU members to the government reluctance to fulfill its contractual obligations to the teaching staff. According to him the issue at stake were the non-implementation of the new salary structure approved fro the lectures of universities and other institution of higher learning and the renewal of government appointed vice chancellors.

The refusal of the government to negotiate with the lecturer resulted in a protracted industrial action in which academic were paralyzed fro nearly five months.

There are other trade union apart from ASUU in the institution of higher leaning, which also embarked on industrial action. This includes the senior staff association of universities non-academic staff union of universities senior staff association of college of education polytechnic and other institutions and non-academic staff unions.

These associations had at various times embarked upon industrial actions to press their demand for improved pay package and working condition.

In February 1994 members of senior staff association of universities of Nigeria embarked on industrial action demanding that they be paid the same salary and have the same working condition as given to their trading counter parts. In this view C.C Okeke pointed that this industrial action was motivated by greed and actually a result of government feeling of poor remunerations after all institutions of higher learning are reported for improved salaries.

According to Ugbaja the incident of treating each striking association in isolation has always resulted in the rapid re-occurrence of this strike. The members of non-academic staff union in IMT Enugu has also declared trade dispute with the school authorities and ht state government sometimes the trade dispute were approach into strike order than been successfully negotiated and so resulted in industrial actions. In most cases Ugbaja observed that if the apprehended industrial disputes were properly managed and arrested they would not have resulted in strike and lock acts.

The causes of intra and inter union disputes on the other hand may be traced to communication gap between the official and members alleged misappropriation or embezzlement of union funds arbitrary dismissed of national officers by the unions refusal to call delegates practices of the union.

Other causes proceeding among unions are participation rates at different organs of the union especially at the local branch level the characteristic feature of the history of trade unionism in the country and the amendment to union contribution to suit the industrial interest without approval form their delegate conference.

Another causes of union disputes in our higher institution observed that the major causes of such dispute has always been the misappropriation of union fund. Sometimes the misappropriate of institution funds has also caused a great deal of industrial dispute in these institution.

Another causes of conflict is cause by morel causes. These are conflicts that relates to working conditions and failure on the part of employees to provide adequate measures for the welfare and safely of workers both inside and outside the establishment.

This article was extracted from a Project Research Work Topic




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