Industrial Conflict – Causes And Effects In Universities/Colleges

Industrial Conflict – Causes And Effects In Universities/Colleges

Industrial Conflict – Causes And Effects In Universities/Colleges

Over the years, the Nigerian labour history experienced several industrial disputes dating back from the colonial period to independence and to post-independence era. These usually arose out of disagreements or clashes of interest between the actors in industrial relations.

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Similarly, Wogu (1969) highlights major industrial disputes experienced in Nigeria starting from 1912 to 1966. In 1929 an attempt to introduce direct taxation in Eastern Nigeria sparked off the historic Aba women’s Riot. In 1938 the agitation of rail workers for a good working conditions gave rise to the industrial action of 1938; which was later granted to them in January 1938. In 1941, the Civil Service Union in collaboration with the Nigerian Union of Railway Men began the agitation for a cost of living allowance which was then known as “war bonus” after the second world war.

Wogu (1969:44) further stresses that the general strike of 1945 is one of the most important events in the Nigerian labour history with the exception of Iva valley shooting incident of 1949, and the general strike of 1964. The immediate cause of the1945 strike was the unwillingness of the regime to honour its pledges to workers. On June 21, 1947 there was a brutal shooting by the police on the defendless UAC employees in Burutu, which led them to strike in furtherance of a wage demand. Two years later, in November 18th, 1949 there was also brutal shooting of the striking coal miners at Iva Valley coal mine who were agitating for an improved working conditions and the inhuman treatment of the local miners by the colonial government. About 21 miners were killed and many of them injured. Wogu referred to the event as “Enugu Blood Bath”. Progressively, on December 14, 1950 the mercantile workers embarked on strike demanding for a cost of living allowance of which 29, 866 workers were involved and 239, 663 man-days were lost. Nine years later precisely on January, 1959 the Airways Workers Union organized a strike over a wage claim and improved conditions of employment. To beat the strike, the management promised to offer ten pounds to any worker who fails to join the strike.

In 1964, there was a general strike carried out by the United Labour Union over the non-implementation of the revised salary structure. Workers demonstrated their grievances in the streets of Lagos and some labour leaders were tortured in the process by the police.In 1994 during the regime of late Sani Abacha ,the acardemic staff union of universities(ASUU) carried out an industrial action throughout the federation which lasted for more than one year over good working conditions. Also in 2002 ASUU also embarked on six months old strike action over the better working conditions.

Similarly, in 2007 during Olusegun Obasanjos regime, the Nigerian Labour Congress embarked on a nation wide strike protesting the increase on the fuel price with the aim of fighting for the interest of Nigerian citizens who are the primary consumers of the product.In 2009 the ASUU also embarked on six months old strike demanding for a revised salary structure and better working conditions. In 2010, the academic staff union of universities in the south East States of Nigeria embarked on five months strike over the non-implementation of the 2009 FG-ASUU agreement. In that same year, the medical practitioners working with Ebonyi State University Teaching Hospital Abakaliki embarked on strike over poor salary and poor working conditions.

On August, 2011 the Nigeria Labour Congress also embarked on nation wide warning strike over the non-implementation of the new national minimum wage by the federal government as promised by the President, Goodluck Jonathan during his campaign.On September, 2011 the NLC Ebonyi State Chapter also embarked on strike over the unwillingness of the state Government to pay workers the new national minimum wage as enthrenched in the 2004 pension Reform Act.

However, considering the past history of Nigerian industrial relations, one may conclude that industrial conflict is a dominant factor in the Nigerian Labour Relations. Therefore, a study of industrial conflict in Nigeria is necessary especially in Ebonyi State University Abakaliki.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Industrial conflict has been a canker worm that has eaten deep the marrow of Nigerian industrial and social development. It has been a dominant factor in the history of Nigeria labour relations. They have been so many cases of disputes or disagreements either between the employers and the employees or between the government and the civil servants. The disagreements usually results in strike, lockout, sabotage, output restriction, boycottism etc. The effects of these industrial conflicts fall on the citizens who in one way or the other depend heavily on the services of the conflicting organizations. One would begin to ask question, why is it that Nigeria do experience constant industrial conflicts? It is either the Nigeria Labour Congress and other trade unions pursuing an increase in wage nor the academic staff union of universities fighting over better working conditions etc.

Similarly, in 1994 during the regime of late Sani Abacha there was an industrial action embarked upon by ASUU in pursuit of better working conditions which lasted for over a session .The strike seriously affected the academic calendar of the university system and made the students victims of circumstance. Students were denied attentions for over a year .Also in 2002, the same event repeated itself. ASUU also embarked on a six months strike action. In 2009 the same ASUU embarked on six months old industrial action which led to ASUU-FG 2009 agreement. Similarly, in 2010 the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the South Eastern Nigeria embarked on five months strike action over non implementation of ASUU-FG 2009 agreement. All these industrial actions adversely affected the academic performance of the students.

Egwu (2004) states that industrial conflict extended the number of years the students were expected to stay before graduating from the university. During periods of industrial unrest, most students would have engaged themselves in some anti social acts such as political thugery ,armed robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping ,prostitution ,etc. There are other attendant negative consequences of these strikes.This call for serious attention.

However ,one would begin to ask why is industrial conflict a dominant factor in the Nigerian Labour history especially in the university system ?What could be the cause of the action ,the effects as well as possible alternatives to the problem of industrial conflict in Nigeria and the university system?.These are questions sort to be answered by this study.

1.3 Research Questions

For the purpose of this study, the following research questions guide the work. They Includes:

1. What are the causes of industrial conflicts in Ebonyi State University, Abakaliki?

2. What are the effects of industrial conflicts on the life of students and the staff of Ebonyi State University, and the society at large?

3. Does non-payment of workers entitlement results to industrial conflict in EBSU?

4. Does industrial conflict in EBSU results to students poor academic performance?

5. What are the possible alternatives to the problem of industrial conflicts in EBSU?

1.4 Objectives of the Study

This study shall be guided by the following aims and objectives to ensure the systematic implementation of the study.

1. To determine the causes of industrial conflict in Ebonyi State University.

2. To ascertain the effects of industrial conflicts on the life of students, staff of EBSU and society at large.

3. To find out whether industrial conflict affects students academic performance.

4. To determine the possible alternatives or solution to industrial conflicts in EBSU.

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1.5 Significance of the Study

The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, this study will be useful to both students and scholars who wish to advance their knowledge on the meaning, causes, effects and possible alternatives to industrial conflict in higher institution of learning and Nigeria at large.

On the other hand, it also has a practical significance to the management of EBSU, employees and the government, as it will help them improve their industrial relations, economic bargaining and collective understanding among them as actors in Industrial Relations. Significantly, it will also provide practicing industrial personnel managers with knowledge on the causes, effects and possible alternatives to industrial conflicts in Nigeria. Adding to the above, government will be in a position to make better labour laws or legislation to guide the welfare of the workers (employees) as well as the employers.

1.6 Operationalization of Terms

However, for the purpose of this study, the terms defined include:

1. Conflict: This is a situation in which people, groups, or countries are involved in a serious disagreement or argument due to clash of interest.

2. Industrial conflict: This refers to as the dissatisfaction arising from the interaction between the labour and management in the work place.

3. Negotiation: This is the formal discussion between people who are trying to reach an agreement.

4. Strike: This is temporary refusal by workers to work in accordance to the prevailing employment contract or other conditions that may have been specified or implied in the contract of employment.

5. Industrial action: This is the reaction of either party to conflict in any attempt to make the other party succumb to its demand.

6. Collective bargaining: it is the voluntary negotiation between employer and employees (Labor Union) with a view of regulating the terms and conditions of the employment.

7. Poor performance : This refers to a situation whereby an employee failed to meet up with his or her expected target in any task assigned to him in an organization.

8. Non payment of entitlement: This can be seen as a situation whereby the management refuses to pay the workers.

9. Social system: This refers to an establishment or institution deliberately set up by the society to perform a specific function for members of a given society.

1.7 Study Hypotheses

For the purpose of this study, the work will be guided by the following hypotheses.

1. Ho – There is no significant relationship between students poor performance and Industrial conflict.

2. Ho – There is no significant relationship between non-payment of workers entitlement and Industrial conflict.

3. Ho – There is no significant relationship between poor working environment and industrial conflict.


In this chapter views of scholars on the subject matter are reviewed. It is organized under the following headings;(a) the meaning of industrial conflict,(b)the causes of industrial conflict,(c)the effects of industrial conflicts , the possible alternatives to the problem as well as the theoretical orientations for the study.

2.1 The Meaning of Industrial Conflict

According to Gordian (1998:3) Industrial conflict is an expression of dissatisfaction within the employment relationship especially those pertaining the employment contract and the collective bargaining. Similarly, Marshall (1994:240) viewed industrial conflict as resulting from the incompatible interest of workers and employers in the work place; disagreement arising from the terms and the conditions of employment clashes resulting from opposing views held by the management participant in the work place fashioned according to their steps and position on the organization location. This is also in line with the view of Roundhouse et al (1954) that industrial conflict as a whole range of behavior and attitude that expresses opposition and diver’s ant or orientation between mankind, individual owners {management) and the working people (Employees) and their organization on the other hand.

According to Tudor (1983:141), despite the best management practice in administration and communication, industrial conflict will still occur in organizations. A total absence of conflict would be unbelievable, boring and a strong indication that such conflicts are being suppressed. One of the characteristics of a mature group (government and employees) is its willingness and ability to bring suppressed conflicts to the surface where they may be discussed with a greater opportunity of resolving them.

Burton (1972:8), conflict like sex, is an essential creative element in human relationship. It is the element in human relationship. It is the means to change, the means of our social values of welfare, security, justice and opportunity for development to be achieved. Conflict is neither to be depreciated nor feared; that conflict like sex, is to be enjoyed. Thus perceives conflict essential as a social phenomenon with both creative and destructive manifestation. In a similar notion. Hill (1982:113) however, argues that based on these assumptions, the interpretation of conflict is that human beings make choice regarding their behavior, and conflict may arise from the interplay of these choice.

2.2 Causes or Sources of Industrial Conflict

Sayles (1957:10) postulates that industrial conflict as a phenomenon has its cause as the dissatisfaction of workers about their salaries or wages. Darmach (1986:19) also declares that there are many causes of industrial conflict, but there is only one basic, that is the necessities between the political liberty and industrial absolution or prerogative from this argument one can understand that wage is in fact the major cause or source of industrial conflict. He stressed further, that the causes of industrial conflicts is multi-facet and varied depending on the issue that generated the conflict.

Crouch (1982) stresses that it is in general interest of labor to increase its price, to reduce its work burden and to gain control over its own development, capital interest are the opposite, that is to reduce the price of labor to increase the amount of work that can be extracted and subordinate labor to marginal control. This according to him view or x-ray the hiding idea that both the worker and the government and its root cause or result always leads to industrial conflict. That the above-mentioned cause agenda is the result predominant. The degree of isolation of the homogeneity of the work community with the use of bureaucratization of management and the structuring of work groups.

Marshall (1994) stressed that industrial conflict is said to arise when there is deviation from the expectation relating to the term and conditions of work especially when it affect the employees. Similarly, Onyeonoru (2005) also stressed that industrial conflict can also arise as a result of incompatible interest of workers and employees in the working and employees in the working environment, the disagreement arising from the terms and conditions of employment, clashes resulting from opposing view held by workers about their relationship.

According to Azzulence (1999) opined that industrial conflict can be caused when there are absenteeism, output restriction, job changing negligence, accident at work, breach of contract of policy, unconscious forms of protest and individualization etc.

Otobo(2005) stressed that the sources of conflict in industry are numerous, some of which are peculiar to respective organizations or industry and some others located outside the enterprise that is to say that the sources of industrial conflict are internal and external, both often influencing one another. Internal sources of conflict would include, style of management, nature of physical environment of the work place, orientation or social consciousness of workers, other conditions of service, efficacy or otherwise of the promotion, system, and cumbersomeness of grievance and disputes procedure.

On the other hand, the external sources of conflict include government’s industrial and economic policies, nature of labor legislation, unpatriotic, and unethical behavioral of political class, national economic mismanagement, general distribution of wealth and power in society, and the nature of capitalist economy. Some of the external sources of conflict might not directly instigate industrial conflict to influence general expectations, substantially determine nature of workers demand have a bearing on the intensity of conflict, and set the whole tenor for the conduct of industrial relations. Two points have to be emphasized; first, it is because the worker lacks any direct control over the future of his job that his desire to establish a right to the job is always a potential source of conflict.

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Secondly, the actual exercise of managerial control can generate resistance even from workers who do not ordinarily question its legitimacy. The exercise of managerial power is therefore a perpetual source of conflict in industry. The ownership or position of power does not automatically make one a good manger, and clearly the conduct of many managers leave a lot to be desired.

2.3 Effects of Industrial Conflict

According to Michael (1986) strike, as a typical indicator of industrial conflict has four dimensions which include:

i. Frequency: the number of work stoppages in a given unit of analysis over specific period of time

ii. Breadth: the number of workers who participate in work stoppages

iii. Durations: the length of stoppage usually in main days of work lost

iv. Impact: the number of working days lost through stoppages.

The Bureau of labour and employment statistics reported the following data on actual strikes in the year 2000; cases handled -65; workers in new strikes 21,000; main-days lost from the strikers 319,000. The date implies that strike frequency cases handled and duration (main-days lost) are not in significant in the country. The legal right of employers to continue operations during a strike in effect employers attempt to undermine a strike and ultimately the union involved. It also escalates the level of acrimony and distrust during and after a strike; not only between striking workers and also their non-striking counterparts.

Otobo (2005 ) states that the general effect or impacts of strikes and lockout on workers and management (private and public) may be usefully examined at three levels, all of which would be affected by actual conduct of parties during intense conflict situation, duration of conflict, and the agreement, duration of conflict, and the agreements reached. These three level are the social-psychological, political and economic effects.

At the social psychological level, it does not matter to any of the sides whether the strike has been successful or not from their own point of view. if the strike had been deliberately provoked by some members of management in order to introduce some changes and such changes become part of agreement ending the strike, the prestige and status of such managers are enhanced before all other members of management as they are judged competent. From the workers point of view, this could be regarded as defeat except when concessions granted in other areas more than compensate for these new changes; if they did then both workers and management usually claim victory. Otobo (2005) further stresses that in some situations. Workers have found it difficult to sustain a long strike and which they have had to call of without their demands being met. When coupled with man handling and denting of union involves the effect of a settlement upon the internal and external strength of union, upon the internal and external strength of union, upon the wants and attitudes of its members, and upon it’s the reputation in the community and with other unions.

– The strength of the union and its ability to shut down the company’s operations. Whether other unions will co-operate with the striking unions.

– The degree to which striking members will be able to withstand the loss of salaries; will they be able to secure work elsewhere?

– To what extent will the union itself be able to provide strike benefits to its members?

– The degree to which public opinion will be sympathetic-or at least, not automatically to the purpose of the strike. The role that the government can be expected to take in the event of a strike.

In the case of major work stoppages and those immediately and directly affecting the community welfare (such as hospital strike).

2.4 View Point On The Solution To Industrial Conflict

Haven (1995) states that the ability to strike would essentially provide employers with increased incentive to accommodate employees concerns in the event of any major alternatives of an agreement. To him, incentive is far important in determining workers satisfaction in the organization. In similar notion. Maslow and Ordia (1977) argues that people are motivated to perform through financial incentives. He states further that most Nigerians are at the level of the lower order needs which makes them to desire financial rewards before doing things

Onyeonoru (2005:50) states that collective bargaining is an institutional center piece relations. It is the best method of conducting industrial relations. This is perhaps due to the perceived real worth of it as a tool for conflict management, it is significant for grievance resolutions in labor-management relations, as well as worker participation in the work place.

2.5 Theoretical Review

For the purpose of this study, Human relations theory, Abraham Maslow hierarchy of Needs and conflict theory shall be reviewed. In the process of this review, the conflict theory forms the theoretical frame work for this study. The researcher adopted these theories because they are relative to the phenomenon under study and can help in explaining the subject matter. We shall start with Human relations theory.

The Human Relations Theory

Elton Mayor who was the major proponent of this theory began with the assumption of scientific management, believing that the conditions of the work environment, the aptitude of the workers and the financial incentives were main determinants of productivity. He therefore examined the relationship between productivity and variables such as levels of lighting, heating the length and frequency of the rest periods and the value of monetary incentives. The results were inconclusive. There appeared to be no consistent relationship between productivity and the various factors examined. Infact, the results of the study were as puzzling as they were confusing. No clear relationship could be established between intensity of illumination and workers productivity. Workers output increased with intense illumination and further increased with decreased illumination up to the point were workers could barely see what they were doing.

Mayor then changed the direction of his research. Instead of focusing on the factors deemed important by the scientific management, he examined workers attitude towards their work and their behaviour as members of informal working group. It was discovered that workers had established norms which defines a fair days work and these norms rather than the standard set by the management determined their output. Even so, there were marked differences between the output level of individual foremen, the differences which had no relationship with their dexterity and intelligence. These differences could only be explained in terms of their interpersonal relationship. It was discovered that most of the workers belonged to one or three informal groups. Therefore, differences in output were most closely related to informal membership. The three groups that existed were (rate busters) that is those who produced significantly more than other workers, (The squealers) those who maintained normal management fixed output, (chiselers) those who produced significantly less than what other workers. However, as a result of this these standards, the output of the wire men in the three groups differed. Thurs, the Hawthorne studies generally moved emphasis from the individual workers, to the worker as a member of social group.

Mayor saw the behaviour of worker as a response to group norms rather than simply being directed by economic incentives and management designed work scheme. He argued that informal work groups develop their own working norms and values which are enforced by the application of group sanctions. For instance, wire men who exceeded their groups output norm become the butt of sarcasm and ridicule, they suffered mild forms of violence and risk ostracism from the group. The power of such sanction derives from the dependency of the individual upon the group.

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However, the causes of industrial conflicts in Nigeria can be explained using human relations theory. Conflicts in working environment often arose as a result of the inability of the management to realize the existence and influence of informal groups among the workers. Because individual has a basic need to belong, to feel part of a social group. He needs approval, recognition, and status which can not be satisfied if he fails to conform to group norms. This means workers have norms or rules which guides their behaviour towards their job. The issue pointed out here shows that workers do not want to be in the bad book of others and they tends to develop sentiment in the process of interaction, which affects the goal of the organization.

The human relation management model found out that every group of worker develop norms about what to produce , and how to produce, how much, how to behave to other workers , management , productivity etc. These rules were not necessary written down and they are important in explaining efficiency and productivity as the formal rule of the management. Therefore, those who did not conform to these rules regardless of their rational economic position were ostracized since one of the basic characteristics of every human is to have good working relationship with his or her fellow human being, the tendency to conform become obvious. Therefore, the workers a times stop work early, or shows output restriction, boycott, strike, etc simply, because they want to fill their own quota as defined by the group norms or rules. This explains why most Trade Unions in Nigeria such as ASUU ,NLC, NASUU etc often embark on strike and other forms of industrial actions for their members interest not just for financial incentives but to conform to the expectation of the group norms.

Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs Theory

This theory is one of the early and best known theories of motivation in organization. Maslow (1970) argues that within every human being there exists a hierarchy of five needs which are:

1. The physiological needs: These include hunger, shelter, sex and other bodily needs. Once these needs are satisfied newer or higher needs will emerge. Hence, their strength and importance decreases and next higher level need become stronger motivator.

2. Safety Need: These include security/Job security, protection from physical and emotional harm, economic disaster .These needs are often met in industrial organization by such programmers as infringe benefits, retirement or pension scheme ,insurance benefits ,medical or health services ,safe working environment.

3. Social or love Needs: These include affection, belongings, acceptance, friendship, love etc. Non satisfaction of these needs may affect the mental health of the employee and may be evidenced in high rate of absenteeism , poor performance ,low job satisfaction.

4. Esteem Needs: Which include internal esteem factors such as status, recognition and attention, respect, self-esteem , personal sense of competence .However ,at the esteem level the individual wants to be perceived as competent and able.

5. Self-actualization Needs: These include growth, achieving ones potential and self-fulfillment, the drive to become what one is capable of becoming.

As each need becomes substantially satisfied, the next need becomes dominant. Though no need is ever fully satisfied, a satisfied need no longer motivates. Maslow further divided the five needs into higher and lower needs. He, argued that an organization that meets all these needs would produce a high motivated worker. However, industrial conflict or grievances are bound to come up in an organization, when the management failed to satisfy the needs of the workers. The management has to consider the interest of the workers so as to make them feel satisfied with their job. This will also motivate them to give up their best performance in actualizing organizational goals.

Theoretical framework

The researcher adopts conflict theory of Karl Max (1818-1883) as the major theoretical frame work for this study. Conflict theory holds that conflict rather than consensus was ubiquitous , inevitable , and often present in every social system or organization. There are usually various classes of people who have diverse interests in mode of production or society, For stance , in Capitalist economy there are the boursieise and proletariat (the labourers or workers), the employers and employees , the rich and the poor. In feudal economy there are peasants and serfs etc. To Marx, the unequal distribution of material resources means that some interests would be exploited and marginalized while some would most favoured .This eventually leads to an unhealthy competition and subsequent antagonism and conflicts. Marx was deeply concerned in analyzing the capitalist mode of production which consist of two antagonistic group or classes that is, the capitalist and the labourers ,where the capitalists employ all available means or strategies to suppress , alienate and exploits their workers for profit maximization. The workers on the other hand ,agitates for a wage increase and better working conditions. Because of the antagonistic relationship between the two parties, Marx expected that conflict would lead to a change in the mode of production .

However, Industrial conflicts in Nigeria can be explained using Karl Marx perspective. The capitalists who are the owners of production or the employer of labour often times apply several strategies to maximize profit with out considering the interest of the workers. The workers in order to protect their interest and to fight for a better working conditions had to embark on industrial actions such as sabotage, output restriction, strike, boy cotton etc. This could be the reason why industrial conflicts has been a dorminant factor in Nigerian labour history .The embezzlement of public funds meant for projects by the so called political rulers has contributed seriously to drastic failure of Nigerian industrial development. The workers are not paid enough wages or salary that can sustain their needs. Currently, there has been controversy between the Nigerian Labour Congress and some of the state governments over non payment of the national minimum wages which has already been passed into law by the national assembly .Similarlly , the failure of Government in south eastern Nigeria to implement the 2009 ASUU-FG agreement propelled ASUU to embark on five months strike of 2010 which affected seriously the academic activities of the universities involved. In Ebonyi state university for instance, the nature of university law, non payment of workers entitlement or promotion arrears, the indiscriminate sacking of lecturers without due process ,etc has resulted to reoccurring decimal of industrial conflicts in the institution..

However, one would begin to ask why do some of the state Governments finding it difficult to pay national minimum wage to their workers as passed into law? Considering the allocation that comes into their purse monthly. This is why Karl Marx argued that in every society or modes of production ,there is always two classes with divert interests. The capitalists and labourers, the capitalists who are the employer of labour designs way of suppressing, alienating and exploitating the labourers for their own selfish and egoistic interest, thereby making the poor to get poorer and the rich get richer. This explains why industrial conflict has been a dominant factor in Nigerian labour history. To Marx , the antagonism between the capitalists and the workers will eventually lead to a change in the mode of production in time to come.

Industrial Conflict – Causes And Effects In Universities/Colleges

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  1. joanah oye says:

    weldone please does this perpectivi explain karl mannhiem’s industral conflict. thanks

  2. Friday Golu. says:

    I enjoyed it. Would luv to see d complete project

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