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2014: Year of industrial actions

Last year was indeed a strike-filled one which not only  affected the growth of Nigeria but kept stakeholders wondering if there was no other veritable…

Last year was indeed a strike-filled one which not only  affected the growth of Nigeria but kept stakeholders wondering if there was no other veritable weapon or strategy that could be deployed by both employer and employee to resolve industrial disputes.
First to open the floodgate of strikes in the year was the senior staff union of colleges of education, which on January embarked on a seven-day job boycott in demand of the implementation of CONTEDISS.
Following on the heels of the colleges of education workers’ industrial action was the strike embarked upon by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) over the non-payment of severance package for some of its members as well as unfair labour practices meted to its members working for the new owners of the defunct Power Holding  Company of Nigeria(PHCN).  
Unions in the nation’s health sector generously used strikes to attract governments’ attention to the plight of their members nationwide.
The Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU) and others’ January strikes for improved welfare  for members led other unions to threaten and embark on warning and full scale strikes throughout the months of last year.
On January 22, members of the Medical and Health Workers Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) went on a three-day warning strike, paralysing all health institutions and health-related institutions, including the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA), National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR) and others.
In one of the strikes, the Nigeria Medical Association in June demanded among other things, for all health workers to attain the highest level of their career (GL 17) without the nomenclature of ‘director’ in the hospital setting as well as the need for hazard allowance of at least N100, 000 per month for medical doctors.
The union suspended the strike in August after 55 days of punishment on Nigerians, to tame the spread of the dreaded Ebola disease in Nigeria.  On November 13th, JOHESU embarked on a fresh strike, demanding parity with doctors in appointments to key positions in the hospitals as well as in bearing the nomenclature of “consultant.”
Also, oil workers on the platform of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) threatened and embarked on several strikes over issues which bordered on the welfare of its members nationwide.
In February, NUPENG threatened strike in protest over the spate of divestments by oil majors in Nigeria. Six months later, it gave the federal and state governments as well as multi-national oil companies a 14-day ultimatum to address alleged harsh treatment suffered by its members in Nigeria Agip Oil Company and BK Tubulars (Nigeria) Limited in Port Harcourt.
By August, the union called on some members to proceed on strike also in protest to the dismissal of some of its members by Chevron Nigeria Limited.
A couple of months earlier, precisely by May, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), threatened to embark on strike over the implementation of the Integrated Personal Payroll System (IPPS) for oil workers in Nigeria. That same month, the Rivers State chapter of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) embarked on a three-day warning strike over an attack on its members.
In December, both NUPENG and PENGASSAN embarked on indefinite strike to protest insecurity in Nigeria, non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), divestment of oil assets and sack of union members by oil majors, poor state of refineries in the country and of the roads leading to them, among other grievances.
The Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN) had in February embarked on a three-day warning strike demanding for the implementation of a court ordered judgment directing the financial autonomy of the judicial sector.
It followed up with a 21-day strike notice to the federal and state governments in May and on its expiration in July, embarked on an indefinite strike which was suspended three-weeks later after the federal government promised to obey the Federal High Court’s verdict on financial autonomy for the judicial sector
The education sector also had its share of strikes in 2014 starting from the first month of the year when the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) Delta State chapter commenced a strike over the plight of its members. The year also witnessed a spill over of a 2013 strike of polytechnic teachers.
In May, NUT embarked on a one-day protest over the kidnapping of over 200 schoolgirls by the Boko Haram insurgents in Chibok, Borno State. It also threatened strike if teachers in Unity Schools were not paid the national minimum wage. Three months later, the union also threatened strike if the federal government refused to put measures in place before schools resumed in September with regards to preventing the dreaded Ebola disease from breaking out in schools.
Lecturers of the Lagos State University (LASU) embarked on an indefinite strike in May over failure of the school authorities to meet their demands, while the Radio, Television and Theatre Art Workers Union of Nigeria (RATTAWU) in March embarked on a warning strike over infrastructural decay in government owned electronic media, right to  collect radio and television license by local government areas, faulty and opaque process of digitisation of the nation’s broadcasting sector and the issue of national carriers for digitisation.
In May, aviation workers embarked on a two-day warning strike to protest planned mergers of aviation agencies by the federal government. The Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) same month threatened strike over implementation of a new tariff regime by the federal government.
Also in May, the Amalgamated Union of Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreation Service Employees resumed strike over rights of members and to put an end to what it called the victimisation of labour leaders and workers of the National Commission for Museums and Monuments by the commission’s management.
In July, the Joint Working Committee of the Nigeria Railway Workers and the Senior Staff Association of Nigeria Railway threatened strike over delay in their promotion.
President Goodluck Jonathan recently acknowledged the debilitating effects of strikes on the national economy and charged unions to explore mature means to settle their grievances with their employers.  
In all, last year had been a very cantankerous one for government and workers and most of the issues which led to the strikes and sabre-rattling have rolled into this year. However, keen observers have expressed hope that government, which normally reneges on pacts entered into with labour unions, may turn a new leaf this year for the sake of economic growth and prosperity for the nation.

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