THE IMPACT OF TRADE UNION STRUCTURE ON UNION STRENGHT IN THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM
This research examined the impact of trade union structure on union strength in the university system using Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) Moshood Abiola University Lagos as a case study. Eighty samples were used in this study using self administered questionnaire. Hypothesis was tested using chi-square method and all finding were tested at 5% level of significance. The study made use of research questions and hypothesis which enabled the researcher arrive at all the necessary information needed for the work. It was concluded that the impact of trade union structure on union strength will yield a positive out come if general unions are adopted and practiced. It was recommended that unions will have to ensure that union’s dues are paid regularly. The power tussle in the workplace is an everlasting relationship that continues between the employers and employees. Hence membership size, financial strength and union solidarity have been identified as crucial factors to help the unions keep-up its structure and as well maintain the steady pace which it needs to utilize in pursuit of its demands in the organization. The level of a union’s strength solely depends on the structure it has developed over time in the organization. However, the union’s strength and it’s ability to further pursue its goals or aims depends on the union structure which it has developed. The academic staff union of universities is used in this research work to specify impact of union structure on its strength especially in Nigerian university system.
The workplace is known for the financial tussle between workers and employers. Employer being owners of capital usually have the upper hand in the bargaining process and even dictate terms of employment unilaterally in some cases. Workers on the other hand know that this imbalance have to be corrected so as to stand a chance of realizing their demands in the work place. Hence, the desire to form trade unions. This in turn has brought about various benefits for workers such as economic benefits, social benefits, welfare benefits and political benefits.
These unions therefore adopt structures suitable for their demands in the workplace. Unions most especially in Britain and United States, adopted the craft structure initially before evolving into industrial ones and some later metamorphosed into general unions. These structures were adopted in order to strengthen the unions and to enhance their impact in the workplace.
However, the formation of unions (Trade unions) does not imply the automatic realization of worker’s demand. Worker’s demands are only realized based on the union strength. It has often been asserted that unions in Africa are too weak to bargain effectively (Robert and Greyfiede Bellecombe, 1967). It is in the light of this that lecturers across different universities in Nigeria came together in 1976 to form the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The union was formed with the objective of establishing and maintaining high standards of service for it’s members among others.
But as mentioned earlier on unions demands are not realized Automatically. The strength of a union is vital to it’s achievements. Whether ASUU has met it’s objectives or not will be a function of it’s strength.
The workplace is a place of power relations between the workers and the employers. This is as a result of the existence of more divergent interests than the convergent ones they have. So it is a situation whereby the party that wields greater power tends to take greater share of the workplace benefits. Their unions have to be strong if they are to achieve the demands of their members.
1.1 Historical Background
Trade Unions are organizations of wages and salary earners formed for the purpose of maintaining and improving the employment conditions of their members. (Tayo Fashoyin 1989).
The History of Trade Unions in Nigeria indicates that the first union, now known as the Nigeria. Civil services Union (NCSU) founded in 1912, emerged from the growing wage employment in government establishments. The NCSU was, however, formed primarily to provide a forum for social interaction among African officers in the colonial service as was the case in the other British West African Colonies.
In Nigeria between 1919 and 1932, four unions were formed: three in the Railways and one in the teaching service. These included the Nigerian Native Staff Union, which drew its membership from the clerical cadre union, whose members were from the technical departments, of the railways. These unions sought to promote the official interests and welfare of their members, although they remained inactive after the Achievements of the post World War 1 demands. The third union was organized by the daily-paid workers in the Mechanical workshop in 1932, is today known as the Nigeria Union of Railwaymen. It remained the most militant of all the unions of the period. Under the able leadership of Micheal Imodu, the union led 3,000 workers protesting against poor condition of work in a march to government House. The Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT) was formed in 1931, by such eminent teachers as the Rev. I.O. Ransome Kuti as president. However, the NUT combined economistic and professional functions. The union pressed for Harmonisation of the working conditions of African teachers in mission schools with those in government-owned schools which were substantially better than the former.
The three unions-NCSU, the Railwaymen and the NUT dominated the industrial relations scene of the 1930s. Younger organizations, such as the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and the Academic Staff Union of University (ASUU) have been much more concerned with purely Economist Functions.
Consequently, it is note worthy that the Apex Organistion in the labour movement is the (NLC) The Nigerian Labour Congress. Below it are the 42 industrial unions and branch unions which are created by and subordinate to the industrial unions. The NLC was created along with the industrial unions, in 1978, as the only central compulsorily affiliated to it. The latter contribute 10 percent of their check-off dues to finance the NLC. Every four years, the unions elect officers of the congress from the leaders of the affiliated unions.
As a result of it’s heterogeneous structure, the union is a more complex organization than the firm. Inspite of this, it’s industrial relations objectives are quite definite and specific.
The background of the study gives a very concise history and impact of the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
According to Tayo F. (1989) Trade union are organization which seeks to protect and improve the Economic and work related interests of its members. These interests include wages, benefits, job security, and so forth. However, the Academic Staff union of Universities was formed in 1978 at the beginning of the decline in the oil boom, when the country faced the consequences of the failure of its rulers to use the oil resources to provide welfare system. Military dictatorship had deeply eroded the Basic Freedoms in the Society. Academic Freedom
and University Autonomy were casualties of this military dictatorship. The Funding of Education, and so of universities, grew poorer.
These factors required a change of orientation among the Unions in 1980. ASUUs orientation became radical, more concerned with broad National issues and stood firmly against the oppressive, undemocratic policies of the country.
ASUU’s Early Years
The assault on Academic freedom was the subject of resistance by ASUU throughout the 1980s in 1978, the Uthman Mohammed commission report included an instrument for the Federal governments usurpation of the
disciplinary functions of governing councils to dismiss certain members from their posts without the right of hearing. This practice carried out into the Babangida and Abacha military Regimes.
In 1980, ASUU declared a trade dispute and made autonomy an issue. In December 1980, president Shehu Shagari directed the council of the Moshood Abiola University to remove six senior Academic Staff members from their jobs. In 1986, the supreme court’s judgement was given in favour of the Academic staff union of universities at the Moshood Abiola University, vindicating ASSU’s position.
In 1980-1981, ASUU had a struggle with the Shagari government. It’s grievance were funding, salaries, Autonomy and Academic Freedom, the brain Drain, as well as the survival of the university system. ASUU also worked with separate industrial unions and state chapters of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC). It debated the direction and context of national Economic, Educational and other policies.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Unions exist virtually in every sector of the nation, the Academic Sector is no exception. Their strength in the work place however happens to be in doubt. This is evident by the following:
1. Intra and inter union dispute and discord.
2. Decline in Trade union membership
3. Inability of unions to realize their demands in the work place.
4. Inability of unions to influence government policies.
Although what constitutes union strength has varied from the ability for them to deal with some of their diverse problems arising from the consequences of leadership competition etc. to the ability to specifically restructure or reorganize the union and also achieve its aims and objectives especially during negotiation.
However, for the purpose of this study, the following would be used as the constituents of union strength:
1. Membership size
2. Financial strength
3. Participation and solidarity of union members
4. Political or influencing power.
Hence, the statement of the problem is to elaborates the impact of trade union structure on union strength in the Moshood Abiola University system with the case study of Academic Staff Union of Universities. (ASUU) Lagos Chapter. Therefore, the study focuses on how the structure of union can help increase it’s strength.