Strikes and protests are significant tools in labour and industrial relations, especially when parties are unable to reach an amicable agreement. They are the tools that dissatisfied employees in both the private and public sectors typically use. Employees in the public sector, on the other hand, value the tools more than those in the private sector. This has been based on public employees’ perceptions of their employers as unfriendly in terms of providing a conducive work environment and adequate remuneration based on their efforts over time.
Strikes have been used in the public sector and have been effective in most situations because employers have responded to employees’ demands. Meanwhile, the triumph was not achieved without some compromise. When the strike called by employees of ministries, agencies, and departments failed, our analyst revealed that employees of other ministries, agencies, and departments threatened the striking MDAs’ employers with a solidarity strike or demonstration. Labour relations experts who spoke with our analyst called it as a “strike with possible cascading effects on a country’s economy.” According to experts, solidarity strikes are rarely started without striking employees seeking support from employees of linked organisations or institutions in order to put more pressure on their own employers.
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The Nigerian Labour Congress recently announced its readiness to go on strike in solidarity with academic and non-academic staff associations in Nigerian universities, similar to what happened in previous years when members of the Academic Staff Union of Universities went on strike, demanding a better working environment and adequate remuneration. The Nigerian Labour Congress, which represents all employee organizations, feels that going on a solidarity strike will put more pressure on government negotiators, and that if the government fails to answer striking university staff requests, the economy will suffer more. When the NLC called a solidarity strike in the past, the government responded quickly, according to our analyst.
Four solidarity strikes were tracked and analyzed this year. When it became evident that employers, primarily state governments, were unwilling to meet the demands of the striking workers, state, regional, and national employee associations called for strikes. The Kaduna State Government workers went on strike in 2021, and it was one of the most well-known strikes. The state government believed that public employees were receiving the lion’s share of state funds. As a result, laying off workers will go a long way toward reducing financial excesses and focusing on state growth in terms of proper infrastructure and human capacity development. The Nigeria Labour Congress called for a nationwide solidarity strike.
The Nigerian Bar Association threatened the state government with a solidarity strike after the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria went on strike in Rivers State. Governor Nyesom Wike, who is aware of the consequences of the move, stated that the national body is not required to join the state body. In the same year, the South-West section of the Nigerian Medical Association thought that the government was not doing enough to fulfill the requests of the National Association of Resident Doctors. As a result, a solidarity strike is required to secure prompt government response. The Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers declared its willingness to join the NLC in putting pressure on the Kaduna State Government over its layoff policy, in what appears to be a strategic alliance.
This year, the notion of “help me, and I’ll help you” was put into practice in the context of using solidarity striking strategy in recent labour disputes. While the NBA focused its attention in 2021 on the state branch of the Judicial Staff Union of Nigeria, JUSUN acted as a brother-keeper in 2020, declaring a 2-week indefinite solidarity strike in support of the NLC and the Trade Union Congress, assisting the two national bodies in mounting pressure on government to reverse its decision on price hikes for electricity and petroleum products. Another employee’s union in the oil and gas industry threatened the management of the Port Harcourt Refinery Company with a 48-hour solidarity strike if it did not reverse the decision to fire over 175 casual workers who are members of the union.
The two identified solidarity strikes for this year were basically within education and transportation sectors. Local employees’ associations spearheaded the initiative. When it became clear that the state government was not responding to the demands of the Nigeria Union of Teachers as expected, the Non-Academic Staff Union of Educational Institutions Universal Basic Education Board, Bayelsa State branch, threatened the state government with a solidarity strike. The NLC’s Lagos State branch joined the National Union of Air Transport Employees in picketing Newrest ASL Nigeria Plc, an airline catering firm, over the company’s inability to meet its workers’ demands.
Though one solidarity strike was identified for 2018, an assessment of its nature and characteristics reveals that it had far-reaching repercussions. During the year, the Lagos State Branch of the Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers expressed its desire to join the scheduled NLC strike if the government and labor are unable to reach an agreement.
Key Valuable Insights and Lessons
Overall, it is obvious that supporting organisations frequently went on strike after the striking employees and their employers failed to reach an agreement. Another important insight is that solidarity strikes were started using a cyclic-hybrid strategy. This strategy, according to our analyst, comprises national employee associations joining local branches and local branches joining national organisations. If this strategy remains dominant, our analyst forecasts great success for solidarity strikes in the next five years, because employers have not demonstrated the ability to withstand the many consequences of solidarity strikes as a developing supportive striking strategy over the last five years.