By Victor Young
RESOLVING conflict is a sine qua non to organizational survival and as such should be carefully accorded priority required of it. The strategy, principle, process and practice must carefully be examined with a view to ensuring healthy conflict resolution without bias or prejudices.”
These were the words of the President of the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees, NUCFLRANMPE, Babatunde ‘Goke Olatunji, at a one-day workshop Organised by the Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Employers’ Federation, CANMPEF, few days ago in Lagos.
In a paper titled “Steps in conflict resolution process: NUCFRLANMPE experience”, Olatunji who is also the Chairman, IndustriALL Global Union, Nigeria, among others, told his audience that externalizing industrial conflict had consequences for both employers and employees, advising that parties should endeavour to settle internally.
He informed that issues that could lead to industrial conflict included retrenchment of workers due to factory closure, lay-off, discharge or dismissal; denial of benefits or an award to a worker, non-payment of personal allowances to seasonal employees, and the demand of employees for medical relief; lock out and claim for damages and Problems relating to gratuity, NHF, pension fund and allowances.
According to him, employers and employees should strive to avoid industrial conflict through among others, “Collective bargaining machinery must be properly utilized; Proper training and development; leadership by example. Workers’ leaders and managers are judged not by what they say, but by what they do and how they behave; and managerial leadership. There must be an organizational dynamic approach to manage conflict; effective communication between workers and management; rewards should be based on merit; proper job enrichment and enlargement i.e. career development, promotion and motivation.
He noted that “Resolving conflicts is a sine qua non to organizational survival and as such should be carefully accorded priority required of it. The strategy, principle, process and practice must carefully be examined with a view to ensuring healthy conflict resolution without bias or prejudices. In handling conflict, the validity of the issue must be determined- find out whether any collective agreement has been breached, has any labour law or policy being violated or has the workers health, safety and welfare being jeopardized After determining the validity, get all facts and cross-check, then reduce the complaints into writing for onward settlement process.”
Olatunji who is equally a national auditor of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, explained that conflict resolution could be at different levels; individual and group and it could also be resolved internally or externally.
He said at the the individual level, the grievance procedure involved “ *Stage (1) – The Employee who has a grievance shall make this known as soon as possible in the first instance, to his immediate superior who shall look into the subject matter of the grievance with a view to effecting settlement. *Stage (2) – lf the matter is not promptly settled, it may be submitted by the employee either orally or in writing to his Sectional Manager who shall deal with the matter. *Stage (3) – If the matter is still not settled, it may be submitted to the Departmental Manager, for investigation and settlement and a branch Union representative may accompany the employee when he meets the Departmental Manager, if the employee is a member of the Union.
“*Stage (4) – If the matter is not settled, it may be submitted by the Branch Union’s Secretary or any other accredited Branch Union Official acting on behalf of the Branch Secretary to the Unit Human Resources or Operations Manager for an investigation and answer, on behalf of the Company Management. *Stage (5) – lf the answer is not satisfactory, the issues may be referred to the appropriate Director through the Human Resources Director for review. *Stage (6) – If the answer is still not satisfactory, the matter shall be referred to the Federation and the National Union for settlement. *Stage (7)- if at this stage the grievance is not settled, either side shall have the right to declare a trade dispute.”
For the conflict arising out of Collective Agreement, he said it involved “*Stage (1) – The branch Union shall take up the alleged breach of agreement with the company concerned. The company shall endeavour to resolve it as speedily as possible within 14 days. *Stage (2) – If the matter is not promptly settled, the matter shall be referred by the Branch Union to the National Union and the company shall refer it to the Federation within 14 days thereafter. *Stage (3) –The federation and the Union shall meet under NJIC to find a solution, failing which either side shall have right to declare a trade dispute.”
“The above discussed scenario is the approach adopted by the Federation and the Union for resolving grievances internally without attracting third party. However, if the issue cannot be addressed using the above mechanism, there is also a stated procedures for resolving conflict as contained in the Trade Disputes Decree of 1976 which allows the use of mechanisms such as mediation, conciliation, Industrial Arbitration Panel and National Industrial Court which is the highest authority in settling employment related issues. We should strive to ensure that no contentious issues attract external resolution mechanism because of its negative effects on employers-employees relation after settlement.”
Olatunji added that “in handling conflict of whatever form; the causal factor should be addressed instead of wound-dressing. We should always consider what might be the reaction of others to an action of one. If we are guided, we will not often have any conflicting issues but our inability to go by the rules and also by not complying with agreements often remain causal factors to conflict. Conflict in industrial set-up should also be positive in nature such that it forecloses severance of industrial relationship.”