In all organised and structured societies, the protection and promotion of the rights, well-being and the interest of all workers and pensioners rest primarily on organised labour groups.
As one of the factors of production in economic parlance, labour assumes a primary place since it is the synthesis of all other factors of production.
It is often described as the process of exerting mental, physical and psychological energy to earn economic advantage, profit, rent, wages and commission. Labour has also been described as work for wages.
On the other hand, labour movements are groups structurally and conditionally positioned to negotiate on behalf of the whole, wages or salaries by bargaining with the owners and shareholders of the production enterprise.
The relationship between the employers and employees especially between government and labour unions has its origin with the industrial revolution within the factory system of production, the growth of a protectorate and the development of trade unions.
The world over, organised labour has had cause at one time or the other, to disagree with authorities on issues of policies, deemed unfavourable to workers welfare. Nigeria is no exception to the norm.
In Nigeria, Labour also strives to promote and defend the nation’s Nigerian aspirations for a democratic, just, prosperous and transparent society, while equally advancing the cause of the working class population.
To achieve these, the two umbrella organised labour organs – the Nigeria Labour Congress-NLC and the Trade Union Congress-TUC have structured missions to organise, unify and educate all categories of workers, defend and push for the political, economic, social and cultural rights of workers as well as emancipate workers and citizens from all forms of discrimination and exploitation by employers.
Unlike in some other climes, relations between the organised labour and government in Nigeria have for the most part been cordial over the years.
Evidence to this effect was most visible on the eve of the 2015 general elections, when the workers unions had televised chats with the two leading Presidential candidates, at which they articulated the expectations of the working class to the then aspirants.
Labour in Nigeria has also been a critical player in engagements with government and other stakeholders at national conferences and other platforms instituted to chart new ways to propel development and growth across the nation.
Nonetheless, organised labour in Nigeria has been consistent in stressing the impact of social challenges on workers, identifying uncertainties over the fundamentals of adequate and timely pay for work done and the need to upgrade work environments to the levels prescribed by the United Nations, as the most compelling. It has blames government and some employers for the non-implementation of signed collective agreements, which have led to strikes and near strikes in some sectors of the economy.
Both the NLC and TUC however, continue to maintain that they are willing partners in the collective aspiration to build a new Nigeria and bequeath a worthy legacy to generations of Nigerians yet unborn. These can only be achieved in an atmosphere of harmony, peace, trust and unity.
Accordingly, organised labour has recommended mass transit for workers and a lasting solution to the incessant fuel crisis as critical to boosting workers’ morale and curbing valuable man-hours lost on petrol queues.
The tasks ahead are enormous but with strategic, improved collaboration, government, the governed and organised labour can and must earnestly work in cohesion to take Nigeria to the next level.