Dynamics of collective bargaining in resolving conflict in employment relations.

AuthorIlesanmi, Ayodeji
PositionReport - Abstract


The evolution of collective bargaining as an important concept of employment relations has been a significient phenomenon ever since the term was coined by Beatrice Webb in 1891 (Otobo, 2006: 155), in "dealing with resolving conflict and reaching agreement between labor market actors in both the public and private sectors" (Fashoyin, 2008: vii). Thus, its dynamics in contemporary global employment relationship has become an important development in resolving issues relating to the changing nature of employment relations in work environment. At the same time, it "serves as an effective tool for industrial democracy and social justice" (Fashoyin, 2008: vii). In fact, to be specific "collective bargaining served as a cornerstone institution for democracy, a mechanism for increasing workers' incomes, improving working conditions and reducing inequality, a means for ensuring fair employment relations and a source of workplace innovation" (Hayter, Fashoyin & Kochan, 2015: 226).

Events in labor markets in both developed and developing countries over the years in periods either of economic boom or recession have not underplayed the importance of collective bargaining process (Akinwale, 2011: 7). Although, Saundary and Wibberly (2012: 6) argues that the "recent events have been dominated by a drive to find more effective means of resolving individual employment disputes". No wonder, UK government's current review of workplace dispute resolution concludes that "more needs to be done to support and encourage parties to resolve disputes earlier where possible, in the workplace in order to maintain employment relationships, reduce costs to the employer and ultimately increase economic efficiency and growth" (Saundary & Wibberly, 2012: 6).

The same reason prompted Nigeria Government to review its labor law in 2005, as Akinwale (2011:7) posits that "the 2005 labor Act seeks to promote industrial democracy and collective bargaining as crucial mechanisms in the determination of wages and other terms and conditions of employment in compliance with the ILO requirements" of ensuring peaceful workplace relations and encourage parties to resolve disputes without necessary result to industrial action in the form of stoppages at work (Hale, Barrett & Bryce, 2012: 8). Collective bargaining has become necessary more than ever before, as countries have made frantic efforts at de-escalating conflict and dispute at work place by bringing it to the barest minimum in order to ensure productive, equitable and a well-functioning labor market environment. This is critical to realizing sustainable and inclusive economic development and growth (Saundry & Wibberley, 2012: 6).

Although no two countries have exactly the same labor-management challenges, according to Nel (2002: 22), every country's employment relations system is shaped by its history and diverse socio-political, economic and technological forces both within and outside the country. However, in an attempt to defuse conflict and guarantee peaceful work environment most societies have developed rules, institutions and procedures for the regulation of conflict. This is in line with the ILO Convention C 098, Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining of 1949, and promoting collective bargaining Convention No. 154 of 1981.

Therefore, while some rules are prescribed by the state in various labor laws, other rules have been developed through agreements between employers and unions. It is against this background that "collective bargaining forms one of the most important gradients of the ILO strategic objective of promoting and strengthening social dialogue, reducing conflict through the resolution of labor disputes, promoting workplace democracy, and ensuring the recognition and protection of the workers' rights" (Fashoyin, 2008: vii). The current study intends to examine the effect of collective bargaining in resolving conflict and guaranteeing industrial peace and harmony in employment relations with reference to the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government of Nigeria.

Literature Review

There are diverse views on collective bargaining which have been useful in employment relations over the years. The ILO Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98) of 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". DeNisi and Griffin (2005: 454) argues that 'collective bargaining involves two sides: management representing the employing organization and labor union representing its employees. Aidt and Tzannatos (2008: 259) emphasize that "the consequences of collective bargaining depend on many factors, including the share of the labor market covered by collective agreements as opposed to individual contracts and the degree of bargaining coordination.

Otobo (2006: 154) posits that it serves as a central feature of industrial relations system, being regarded as a method or process of conducting negotiations on wages and working conditions and other terms of employment. Khabo (2008: 4) defines it as "a means of regulating relations between management and employees and for settling disputes between them". Akhaukwa and Maru (2013: 276) assert that it helps to promote cooperation and mutual understanding between workers and management by providing a framework for dealing with industrial relations issues without resort to strike and lockouts, hence "meant to balance the power of labor against capital" (Betcherman, 2013:32).

Davey (1972) cited by Chidi, Badejo and Ogunyomi (2011: 4) views it as "a continuing institutional relationship between an employer entity (government or private) and labor organization (union or association) representing exclusively a defined group of employees of said employer (appropriate bargaining unit) concerned with the negotiation, administration, interpretation and enforcement of written agreements covering joint understanding as to wages/salaries, rates of pay, hours of work and other conditions of employment". TUAC (2015: 10) argues that it serves as a cornerstone institution for democracy, a mechanism for increasing workers' incomes, improving working conditions and reducing inequality, a means of ensuring fair employment relations and a source of workplace innovation.

Hale, Barrett and Bryce (2012: 8) posits it as a process by which employees organize themselves as a collective unit (typically through a trade union) to negotiate with their employer on changes to working conditions such as wage settlements, working hours, or redundancy. Hayter and Stoevska (2011: 3) define it as the process through which the social partners arrive at an agreement that regulates both terms and conditions of employment and labor relations. Ian (2010: 12) asserts that collective bargaining has an obvious impact on the structure, level and conditions of employment that provides a forum for negotiations on the form and content of social security.

Bargaining for an employment agreement can cover a range of issues that can include the coverage of the agreement, either by the work performed or the workers involved, and the terms of the agreement (Otobo, 2006: 156; MBIE, 2013: 10). The essence of this is to prevent a breakdown in...

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