The changing role of state in industrial relations & social protection.

AuthorObisi, Chris


Designing strong and efficient state role mechanisms for promoting industrial relations harmony and efficient social protection programs is a necessary paradigm for eliminating labor market invariability, income and wage disparities in the economy. In an era of increasing globalization and overwhelming business competitiveness, the Nigerian Government still exhibits pervasive policy inertia and primordial and insensitive authority over industrial relations issues such as wage determination and conditions of service (Tajudeen & Kehinde, 2007). Issues bothering on industrial relations are not subjected to exclusive intervention of a single entity.

Industrial relations refer to the pattern of interaction or relationship between the employer and /or management on the one hand and employee and /or trade unions on the other, including the activities of government in supervising and controlling the industrial relations system (Okaka & Eriguna, 2011). This form of relations has a direct concern for all aspects of work and employment in all industries and types of employment and topics/problems related to labor (Kaufman, 2004). The insistence on this conventional inter roles presents a distracting intrusion which has not only succeeded in pinning down the impulse of dynamic stimulus that dictate the labor market variables but also imposed restrictive tendencies on the ability of the industrial relations system to produce synergy that can propel other economic variables such as pricing, income, interest rates, goods distribution and market policies to boost productivity in the economy.

Literature Review

The general model for the management of industrial relations system in Nigeria suggests the inclusive participation and contribution of the sub units that make up the system. These sub units consist of the workers and their trade unions, employers and their associations and the government and its agencies (Ayantunji & Ayantunji, 2013). A more attractive interpretation of this collective participation concept is that by virtue of sustained relationship people come to develop common consensus that is binding on them. By implication, industrial relations involve actors and institutions such as government and its agencies, trade unions with its workers and employers and their association and the relationship between them (Kochen, 1986; Fashoyin, 1988 cited by Adeniji, 2015).

A further possibility is to view the practice of industrial relations as having an objective by managing issues and problems concerning the relationship between workers and employers (Imafidon, 1996). Thus Fajana (2005) defines industrial relations as encompassing every conceivable feature affecting the management of labor (human resources) including the activities of government or its agents over management. The key feature in this definition is that industrial relations do not terminate with labor management relations rather it is broadened to include all measures and approaches essential for resolving and reconciling conflicts as well as improving the wellbeing of employees engaged in the relationship between employer and employees (Okaka & Eriguana, 2011).

Changing Role of State

In dealing with the underlying causes of labor relations crises, first, the proposition that the harmonious relationship between the employers and employees will bring about industrial productivity is accepted and when this is in the persistent increase will engender high economic development and growth. The presumptive assumption with in this premise is that the state should not only intervene but be involved in matters concerning workers and employers of labor.

Kelly (1998) supports the view that the employers and employees are the principal parties in industrial relations does not deny the right of preeminence to the pervasive if not over arching influence of the state and its agencies. To put it differently, all labor/employment policies in Nigeria are to be seen as an integral part of the national policies and objectives of the country as a whole (Tajudeen & Kehinde, 2007). Some of these reasons reflect the rising tendency for the government to play a significant role which is complementary to harmonious industrial relations in the country. Fajana (2006) states a periodic role of state in industrial relations. According to him before Independence, government interest in industrial relations matters was minimal (as measured by the amount of protective legislation for) due to:

* Few workers in wage employment

* Absence of a two sector economy

* Colonial administration pursued a policy of creating the right environment for colonial enterprises to flourish.

There is, however the reason to believe that this role should be large in the later stage of development. As fabric facilities are built up and capital markets are developed leading to large industrial layouts, the path is now cleared for more workers to be employed and more trade unions and associations to be formed. This development is faulted by the fact that industrial development generates its own problems. A systematic analysis of the potential threat posed by this industrial development reveals that workers becoming apprehensive of the challenge of the work place and immense psychological impact of exploitation by industry owners decide to form stronger trade unions (Adeniji, 2015).

Reflecting on the changing role of Nigerian Government in industrial relations, one is tempted to look at the perspectives of economic changes and employment role, government institutions, labor laws and collective bargaining (Nkemdili, 2012). Logically, the first proposition to be investigated is: what is the impact of these variables on industrial relations development and whether there are striking changes in the government's relative position that can improve the fortunes of industrial relations in Nigeria.

Economic/Employment Role

The most conspicuous dimension of the state involvement in the growth of industrial relations in Nigeria is the impact of economic and employment situations. The fluctuation in the economic riches of the state represents a frightening facet in the growth of industrial relations in the country. The economic meltdown which saw the private sector or capitalism on its knees, is threatening the fabric of industrial relations. Those developments have drastically changed the nature of the industrial nations as has never been seen before. The state must come up with a macro-economic model-building concept that will predict massive state intervention with the objective of reversing the economic...

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