STRIKE did not originate from Nigeria. The earliest known recorded strike was in the biblical tower of babel story where workers downed tools to protest the introduction of the different languages by God making it impossible for them to understand themselves. All over the world, workers embark on work stoppage to press home their grievances. Strikes became common during the industrial revolution, when mass labor became important in factories and mines. In most countries, strikes were quickly made illegal, as factory owners had far more political powers than workers. However, in most western, strikes were partially legalised in the late 19th or early 20th centuries. Most often, strikes are used to pressure governments to change policies. Occasionally, strikes can destabilise the government resulting in the loss of power by a political party or ruler. In such cases, strikes are often part of a broader social movement taking the form of a campaign of civil resistance. According to Wikipedia, a notable example is the 1980 Gdańsk Shipyard strike led by Lech Wałęsa. This strike was significant in the long campaign of civil resistance for political change in Poland, and was an important mobilised effort that contributed to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the end of communist party rule in eastern Europe.
In Nigeria, workers mostly go on strike to press home their demands for better conditions of service. Instead of it being a rare occurrence, strike is fast becoming a way of life in Nigeria with its attendant disruption of economic activities. Although strikes are supposed to be non-violent, some people have died in the country during the workers general strike against increase in the prices of petroleum products in 2000. Also properties worth millions of Naira were damaged. The socio-economic consequences of incessant strikes in the country cannot be quantified, especially when human lives are involved.
All over the world, workers’ strike is seen as a fundamental human right mostly guaranteed by the International Labour Organisation, ILO. Apart from being a member of the ILO, Nigeria also has major legislations covering the right to strike. They include the Trade Unions Act and the Trade Unions (Amendment) Act 2005; the Trade Disputes (Essential Services) Act, CAP 433, the Trade Disputes Act No. 7 of 1976, Cap. 432, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, LFN, 1990; the Teaching, ETC (Essential Services) Decree (now Act) No 30 of 4th May 1993, which amended CAP 433 and the Teaching, ETC (Essential Services) (Amendment) Decree (now Act) No 44 of 1993, LFN, 1990.
There is no doubt that these laws are supposed to guide both the government and the workers, especially those involved in essential services sectors which should not go on strike but nevertheless do. What is worrisome is that both the government and the workers seem to be oblivious of the damage that strikes cause to the economy and the society at large. Hence, government never takes preventive actions to prevent strikes never happens in the first place. This is a worrisome development which has prompted the editorial board of Realnews to investigate the real cost of strikes to the country in the wake of strikes taking place simultaneously in various sectors. What we found out is chronicled in the cover story of this week entitled: A Nation Weighed Down By Strikes. It was written by Vincent Nzemeke, our correspondent in Abuja. It is a must read.
Meanwhile, Realnews Magazine celebrates its first anniversary on November 19. We would also like to use this opportunity to thank all the visitors to our website, friends and well wishers and most importantly all our advertisers who supported us immensely in this onerous journey which started a year ago. We could not have been where we are today without your much needed support. We deeply appreciate. God bless you all.