Global Resources

Reflections on prospects and problems of globalisation on Nigerian women workers' interests in trade union leadership

Author: M.O. Folorunsho
Publisher: International Labour and Employment Relations Association
Publication Date: Jan 2012
This paper provides a brief overview of the global economic system as it relates to and impacts upon employment relations and workers rights, particularly in Nigeria. It discusses the major industrial responses to the demands of a globalising economy, and examines the external and internal influences that inhibit union responses. Next, the paper discusses the features and challenges of the emerging work environment, and the effect it has had both on poverty levels, and on women workers. Data charting the number of women leaders in both the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress prior to globalisation is presented and analysed, and lastly, the paper examines strategic areas that trade unions can target to increase their prospects, and drastically reduce women’s apathy to trade union participation.
 

While globalisation brought with it revolutions in transport, production, life expectancy, and standard of living, the present economic downturn has seen increasing exploitation of workers as businesses seek to reduce costs. Among the impacts of stuttering globalisation on Nigerian workers are: job losses via automation, outsourcing, mergers, and privatisation; wages failing to keep up with inflation; the feminisation of the labour force; forced de-unionising; and declining membership for unions who are increasingly unable to ensure workers rights are upheld, in part due to neglect by the government in terms of enforcing workers rights. The authors then discuss the topic of good, effective leadership in trade unions at a time of great change, emphasising that old ways of doing things will no longer suffice.

 

The authors conclude that there is a desperate need for what is known as ‘transformational leadership’ within trade unions, leadership that among other things transcends daily affairs, identifies and nurtures talent, and aligns internal structures to reinforce overarching values and goals. Such a transformation is needed to tackle numerous cross-cutting political, social, economic, and technological challenges. These include: declining memberships, anti-union legislation, child labour, corruption, the growth of the informal sector, increasing poverty, and new markets and technologies fuelling rapidly changing demographics and workplace diversity. The “unwritten rule” of most unions that sees leadership as the exclusive reserve of men must change to better reflect and deal with the highly gendered nature of workplace discrimination. Numerous international and national declarations are cited reaffirming women’s rights as workers, which are then juxtaposed with the actual involvement of women in Nigerian trade unions which, while increasing slightly, is still evidence of significant under-representation.