Thursday, May 24, 2018 n 11.35AM / Oserogho & Associates
Employees have an inalienable, constitutional right to join any association of their choice, where such association seeks to protect and promote their contractual and constitutional rights.
Employment associations are usually formed and registered as Trade Unions to fulfill the above objectives.
A Trade Union is thus described by the Trade Unions Act (as amended) to be a voluntary combination or association of employees in the same industrial sector of the economy, whether such employees are in temporary or permanent employment, with the principal purpose of promoting the terms and the conditions of its members’ employment contracts.
Voluntariness of Trade Unions
Section 12 (4) of the Trade Unions Act (as amended) (“TUA”) provides that “Notwithstanding anything to the contrary in this Act, membership of a trade union by employees shall be voluntary and no employee shall be forced to join any trade union or be victimised for refusing to join or remain a member.”
The TUA further prohibits any Trade Union from engaging in any form of discriminatory practices, including where such practices are premised on an employee’s place of origin, tribe or community; religious or political opinions or affiliations.
Any infringement of any of the above provisions, by an Officer of a Trade Union, constitutes an offence, which on conviction attracts a fine.
Benefits of Trade Unions
One of the principal benefits of belonging to a Trade Union is the accessibility of its members to the benefit accruing from any Collective Agreement that the Trade Union negotiates on behalf of its employee members, with an employer or a group of employers. A Collective Agreement is thus a good faith negotiated agreement regarding employees terms and conditions of service.
Another benefit of belonging to a Trade Union is that such association enables its members to declare and undertake any strike action, collectively. Businessdictionary.com describes a Strike Action to be a collective, organised cessation or slow-down of work to compel an employer or a group of employers to accede to the employees’ legitimate demands.
A further benefit to belonging to a Trade Union is the enablement of a group of employees to peacefully picket an employer’s work premises in order to compel the employer to accede to the employees’ legitimate demands. Picketing can be described as one of the forms of industrial actions used by Trade Unions to persuade non-member employees and solicit public support before an all-out Strike Action is embarked upon. Picketing usually occurs where an employer does not accede to the legitimate demands of the employees.
It is however an offence to compel any employee or a group of employees to participate in any strike, work to rule or picketing activity.
Our Courts of Law have rightly continued to restrain Trade Unions from coercing, harassing, intimidating or threatening employees to join Trade Unions. Damages also apply for any infringement of this statutory regulation.
Twenty-first century industrialisations, with the aggressive privatisation of previously held government enterprises have however continued to dwindle the efficacy and relevancy of Trade Union movements.
The above developments are further exacerbated by the inability, and in some cases the unwillingness, of Trade Unions to modernise, and put their employee members’ general interest over and above those of the Executive Officers of the Trade Unions.
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