The Role Of The Civil Service Unions In Nigeria

There exists in the Nigeria Public Service, several trade unions that articulate and aggregate the interest of workers in the public service. The unions operate in different classifications according to their diverse specializations and status. They include, the Nigerian Civil Service Union (NCSU). The Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), Nigeria Union of Civil Service Secretarial And Stenographical Workers (NUCSSSW), Agriculture and Allied Workers Union of Nigeria (NAWUN), Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical And Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTR) Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN), National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwifes (NANNM), National Union of Printing, Publishing Paper and Paper Products (NUPPPROW). These unions operate under the Joint National Public Service Negotiating Council (JNPSNC), This council handles public service matters in collective bargain. Presently, there is a liberalized trade union, policy, which gives the unions the opportunities to either affiliate with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) or the Trade Union Congress (TUC). The democratic dispensation and the policy of trade union liberalization have created for the emergence of several trade unions in the public service.
Historically, trade union development in Nigeria started with Nigerian Civil Service Union, which was established in 1912. Subsequently, the Railway Native Staff Union, was established in 1919, and the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) emerged in 1931. The repressive and exploitative attitude of the then colonial administration in Nigeria, and the prevalent economic recession that preceded the second war, aroused trade unions development and the consciousness of workers in the public sector.
The Trade Union Ordinance of 1938, enacted by the colonial government, provided the framework and guidelines for the registration, organization and operation of trade unions in the public service. Subsequently trade union Acts were enacted, with the growth and intensification of workers consciousness militancy and their inevitable alliance with the Nationalists in the struggle for political independence. There were also colonial administration regulations which outlawed strikes and other forms of workers expression of their grievances. The emergence of Central Trade Union Congress in 1942, assisted in the organization of the first general strike of public workers in 1945. The strike was formidable and seriously asserted the influence of trade unions in government.
However, the emergence of Nigerian Independence in October 1, 1960 brought a review of the colonial labour policies. A new labour policy was introduced in Nigeria 1975, which gave new image and direction to trade unionism in Nigeria. In 1978, the structure of labour movements in the public service was reviewed. Also, the Trade Union Amendment Decree of 1996 was significant, with the opportunity it granted the middle level servants in Nigeria to form a trade union. The contemporary reforms in the public sector and her liberalized trade unionism in Nigerian public service.
Conversely, it is necessary to indicate that public servants in the service of the Nigeria police, Army, Prisons, Customs, Immigration, State Security Services (SSS), Central Bank, Nigerian Security and Minting Company, and other essential sectors of the public service, are prohibited from organizing themselves into any trade union. The existence of trade unions in these sectors may contradict the public policy, which asserts that workers who carry arms should not be unionized. The Trade Union Ordinance of 1938 and subsequent trade union Acts are emphatic in the direction.
The Nigerian Civil Service Union (NCSU)
The Nigerian Civil Service Union is an organization which consists wholly of the workers in the civil service. According to Yesufu (1984), the Nigerian Civil Service Union was formed in 1912 as a platform to fight noticeable grievances with the colonial administration and for the improvement of specific employment conditions. It originally concerns its interest, greatly to the Nigerianization of the civil service and the growth of the economy. It also sought improved conditions and the enhancement of security of tenure for civil service jobs.
The Union is created by the statutory provisions of the Nigerian Labour Law. It became registered as a trade union in 1949. It is not under the control and domination of the government. The government is not liable to interfere in their activities. It is recognized by the government for the purpose of collective barganing. The Civil Servants are permitted to take part in trade union activities. It has branches in all the states and local governments in the federation.
The Nigerian Civil Service Union relates with the government in handling trade disputes which may arise from one or more of the following:
1. Disciplinary matters on the members.
2. Terms of conditions of employment and wages restructing, promotion and payment of leave allowances.
3. Workers Membership and Non Membership of trade unions.
4. Allocation of work, duties and employment.
5. Engagement, non-engagement, termination or suspension of employment or the duties of employment.
6. Machinery for negotiation and consultations.
Role And Functions Of The Nigerian Civil Service Union
1. The Nigerian Civil Service Union plays formidable role in governance and in the welfare of its members. The union exist vitally, as an importanct ally in policy formulation and implementation process. They exert pressures on government and exist as a recognized part of the political process.
2. They also exist as institutionalized linkage with government in providing systematic functions in the state. They lead the dabates on major issues relating to the welfare of its members, and intimately involved in policy making implementation.
3. The union helps to develop formal bilateral relationships. Through this effort, they gain recognition through which they defend the interest of their members. The emphasis on collective bargaining has helped in determining conditions of service and the promotion of good relations between the workers and the government.
4. The union helps to present a common voice and lobby for the influence of government policies that would be favorable to their interests. They perform vital communications functions, which links special public to government and often supplanting interaction and intervention.
5. They provide advise and assistance in the areas of training, grievance procedure, interpretation of labour legislations and collective agreements.
6. The union attempts to secure improved standards, terms and conditions of work from unscrupulous governments. It creates a safe and convenient working environment and relationship for the members to satisfy their broad range of needs. Membership of the union gives a feeling of belonging, security, freedom and strength that may be especially important to workers in the public service. It aims grossly to regulate relations between the civil servants and the government.
7. The union offers opportunities for the expression of social life. The union membership offers the fora for the civil servants to satisfy their basic instincts and the expression of their opinions. Members through the union gain recognition and status by accepting responsibilities in union committees and as union officers, thus, leadership training is acquired, which can be extended to the wider society and governance.
8. The Nigerian Union of Civil Servants, play the role of educating and elightening their members on their rights, privileges and responsibilities. Through the union the members are exposed to broad knowledge on issues concerning the service. They organize meetings, workships, symposia, seminars and conferences to discuss and review broad issues of interest to their welfare and service.
Importance Of The Unions In The Development Of Public Service
The importance of the unions in the development of public service cannot be overemphasized. The unions play inevitable roles in the political process and overall objectives of the public service.
1. The union helps to create cooperative relationship which is a matter of normal concern in the development of public service. They exist as partners with government who are major employers of public servants. They join forces to deal with problems to the mutual benefit of the public service. The union and the government cooperate to articulate fundamental policy decisions affecting the public service.
2. The union has through influence secured better and improved conditions of service in the public service employment. Public service represents a means by which workers cope with the stronger political and economic power of the government, and thus introduce democracy into working relationships in the public service. The union exist as an economic, social and political association, seeking to satisfy the variety of needs of its members and self fulfillment in the public service. They demonstrate the latent social power of wage earners against unscrupulous public policies.
3. The union is important in exerting personal control over day-to-day working conditions as well as the long term destinies, in the public service. They consciously and unconsciously regulate social conducts in the public service.
4. They also play formidable roles in the enactment of labour laws which affect public service. Their contributions and recognitions promote industrial harmony in the development of public service in Nigeria.
5. The union through industrial dispute and breakdown of collective bargaining reveal the deficiencies and inadequacies of prevalent public service system. This subsequently creates for reforms and the restructuring of the public service system. The various reforms and developments in the public service, attest for the vibrancy and the importance of the unions.
Measures Of Pursuit Of The Union Goals And Interest
The unions in the public service adopt several techniques, measures and tactics in the pursuit of their interests and goals. The techniques and tactics employed are determined by the factors of size, geographical distribution of the membership, cohesion of membership, financial resources, prestige, position of the organization, quality of leadership and staff, and the relations with other labour organizations.
However, the unions may adopt any of the following methods which they believe will serve their purpose effectively in any given situation. They include; strike, lobbying, demonstrations, lockout, court action in the national industrial court, work to Rule, slow-down, Represntations, propaganda etc.
1. Strike: Florence Peterson as quoted in Johari (1980) defined strikes as a temporary stoppage of work for specific reasons entered into with the expectation that the work will be resumed when a settlement of the grievances is effected. It is a partial or full cessation of work by the employee with common understanding to compel the employer to acquiesce with the demands. It is intentional and a functional harm to an organization. It may be in the form of work to rule deliberate lessening of work or following the rules without accepting any extra curricular works; Rotating or Hit an run strike organized in a way that only part of the employees stop work at any given time, with each group taking its turn; Sympathy strike the workers are not directly involved, but meant to show labour solidarity.
Wildcat is a strike that violates the collective agreement and not authorized by the union. The strike could be general or national.
General Strike reveals a situation wheere workers in a particular service go out of work.
National Strike connotes a situation where the Unions in country go on strike. The action in this direction reflect more of political influence than economic.
2. Lobbying: It is a technique of influencing government policies to reflect the interests of the Union. It may take the form of personal meetings, delegations and deputations to representatives of the government, writing letters and making telephone calls; sending cables, telegrams and making demonstrations. Lobbying covers all organs of government, and as such, its penetration is discoverable even in the spheres of administration and adjudication. It is obviously a favorite technique in the hands of the Union in influencing government process, especially in a democratic era.
3. Lock Out: It is a form of strike that involves a closure of the organization. It may be forcefully adopted by the Union to encure compliance of their demands. The government or the management may adopt this technique to forestall further intensification of dispute and the occational damage of their equipment by the workers. In this case, workers are kept out of the organization and no work is done, until the grievances are resolved.
4. Court Action: The Union as a technique might instigate a course of action in the national industrial court, in respect of its trade disputes. The court hold the juridiction of settlement of trade disputes, and interpretation of collective agreements and matters connected there with. The existence of this court has helped to arbitrate over labour disputes, the public service Unions and the government cum its agencies.