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Bourgeois take over trade unions


LOWLINESS is young ambition’s ladder, Whereto the climber-upward turns his face; But when he once attains the upmost round, He then unto the ladder turns his back, Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees by which he did ascend.—William Shakespeare  in Julius Caesar.

OVER the years a new trend of leaders has been emerging in trade unions with the sole aim to use the platform for personal aggrandisement. They are what can be regarded as bourgeoisie labour leaders.

While some few trade unions and associations still maintain a resemblance of the principles of the trade unions which gave rise to the slogan: “an injury to one, is an injury to all,” many labour leaders in both public and private sectors, as well as those that cover the two, have turned the unions into an avenue for promoting personal ambitions.

Their lifestyles have made nonsense of the very essence of their calling. They live ostentatious lives and parade several personal aides including security.  Who pays for these aides?

Investigation revealed that they abuse their offices in several ways.  They compromise the positions by using their positions to get favour, contracts,  and other business opportunities from employers  which ultimately make them look the other way while the workers they are supposed to be responsible to go through  one form of abuse, denial and the other.

Abdulwaheed Omar, NLC President
Abdulwaheed Omar, NLC President

Labour Vanguard findings   revealed that while they are getting richer, not only the unions are losing relevance the ordinary workers have been the worse for it. It is also an open secret that in every negotiations especially for retrenchments or redundancies, the leaders smile to the banks.

To show the level of rot, some even invite employers and top officials of government to commission their private houses.

Their mode of operations has not only weakened the unions, but sadly worsened the plight of workers.

While some General Secretaries have become semi gods, some Presidents have simply become maximum rulers.

In the unions or senior staff associations where the General Secretary or Secretary General, depending on the title, employed as servant of workers has in turn become super masters.

In these unions or associations, where the General Secretary is semi god and Chief Executive Officer, CEO,  everything about the union revolves round him. Where the President is a maximum ruler, nothing works when he is not in the office. When he is in the office, he exhibits master servant- relationship with the secretariat staff including the General Secretary. Nobody questions him, he takes decision without consultation and acts as if the union belongs to him.

In one of the unions where the President is a maximum ruler, Labour Vanguard was informed of some occasions where secretariat staff salaries and wages could not be paid for weeks because the President did not come to the office. As a maximum ruler, whatever he says is law. Not even other elected officers can challenge him.

Labour Vanguard investigations uncovered that these leaders use officials of the Ministry of Labour either ignorantly or through compromise to get their unions constitutions amended for personal greed.  So, this class of semi god General Secretaries and maximum ruler presidents has taken over the unions.

Strange to trade unions:

Speaking on the development, former General Secretary of Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Services Employees, AUPCTRE, Comrade Sylvester O.Z. Ejiofoh, told Labour Vanguard that “the issues is not about the extent the elected office bearers of unions or the full time officials of the unions have taken over control of any particular union. First, none of these two should take over control in the sense in which it is being discussed.

Trade union leadership historically and globally is a collective leadership style in the overall interest of the employees, the members of the unions who are the actual owners of the union. What you are raising is that, yes, it has been with us for a long time. In some unions, appointed officials become highly aristocratic. In which case, they administer the union in their own interest.

In some other unions, the elected officials manifest proprietor mentality, again, in their own interest. Both categories do not emphasis the interest of workers or members of the union.

Social movement

But trade union does not exist in a vacuum. Trade union is supposed to be a social movement. If all leadership cadres of the union, elected or appointed, conceptualize the union as a social movement, in which case there will be no room for aristocratic leadership or proprietor leadership. That is the issue. You know, as organization grows over time, they either lose the culture that essentially promotes the attainment of its objectives, or they accentuate such culture.

But you  know like in Nigeria, we have  virtually lost all institutions. We have institutional crisis in this country. Political parties, governmental even corporate institutions are dysfunctional. Trade unions are supposed to pose counter culture, being a movement for social change, could become victims.

Full interview wiht SOZ Ejiofoh on these bourgeois labour leaders  will be published in subsequent edition of Labour Vanguard. It is an interesting read. Keep a date.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.