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Reflection on the quest for industrial harmony – Part 2

By Sylvester Odion Akhaine
23 November 2021   |   2:42 am
It would seem that authoritarianism writ large in the management canvas of MOCPED. The tenure of Mr. Ekemode Kamaldeen as Provost of the College (2002 and 2005) was noted for the industrial crisis

Continued from yesterday

It would seem that authoritarianism writ large in the management canvas of MOCPED. The tenure of Mr. Ekemode Kamaldeen as Provost of the College (2002 and 2005) was noted for the industrial crisis due to what the workers perceived as high-handedness and impunity in the administration of the College.

He was forced out by the state government to restore industrial harmony. But the founding provost, Prof Tunde Samuel (1994-2002) and Mr. Owolabi Amisu (2005-2007), who succeeded Kamaldeen as the sole administrator of the college were credited for administrative astuteness and candour in the administration of the college. While the former laid a strong foundation for the college, the latter restored industrial harmony albeit short-lived.

Indeed, he restored balance to a highly polarized system by maintaining a balance between the two contending groups, namely, the staff union otherwise known as the “aggrieved staff” and the pro-provost group known as “concerned staff”.

It was through the effort of the Sole Administrator that the first Condition of Service for both junior and senior staff was written and adopted by the then Governing Council under the leadership of Prince Ademola Badejo. Despite industrial tension, the incumbent Provost, Dr. Onibon, is said to be humble, suave, industrious, lively, and working to transform’s the institution’s landscape.

A second node is the alleged non-implementation of the new minimum wage in full for the workers. The clarion call of the unions is the full implementation of the template issued by the state government for the minimum wage adjustment. Their letter to the provost dated 18th February 2020 lends credence to the unions demand. Reportedly, the government-approved template in line with staff grades are:-Grade Level 1-06 – N35,000, Grade Level 07- 30per cent, Grade Level 08-10 -percent, Grade Level 12- 14 -22.5 percent, and Grade Level 15-17 -20 percent. Allegedly, the management designed another template with the following structures: 100% was used for Level 1 to 5; while 16% was used for payment of staff from levels 7 to 15.

And the third node is breaching the scheme of service as laid down by the National Commission for Colleges of Education, NCCE. The aggrieved unions have alleged that the non-compliance with NCCE’s Scheme of Service for Deputy Registrars, Deputy Bursars, and the Audit Cadre central to employment and placement of principal officers and other cadres in the College has affected staff’s career progression. The points at issue as could be discerned from the above are workerism, the absence of loyal opposition awareness, managerial authoritarianism, and the recurrent issue of underfunding.

Nevertheless, the next pertinent question is: what is to be done? In his essay titled, “From crisis-induced labour reforms to reform-induced social crises,” published in European Politics and Society, 2020, Mohammad Ferdosi, drawing on the works of Allan Drazen and Victorio Grilli, “The benefit of Crises for Economic Reforms”, published in American Economic Review 1993, Dani Rodrik’s “Understanding economic policy reform” published in the Journal of Economic Literature in 1996, and Mariano Tommasi and André Velasco‘s “Where are we in the political economy of reform?” published in the Journal of Policy Reform in 1996, has argued in the context of economic crisis-induced labour market reform that crises could lead to reforms, break policy deadlock hitherto reified due to economic or political costs, and above all crises could offer helpful insights and awareness on the sustainability of extant policy position and the potential benefits of alternatives. I think the ongoing conflict in MOCPED provides a vista to examine somewhat creatively the questions about industrial relations, state-society relations, loyal opposition, ownership, and responsibility.

In charting the definitional contour of industrial relations it is possible to map three layers one is to see it as the total of the relationship between the employers of labour and labour itself. Workers are often organised in unions, and so you have a three-way relationship, namely, employers, unions, and intra-workers relations. This often plays out at both formal and informal levels of interface. At a second stratum, it embodies the relationship of production traversing, the owners of the means of production, the workers, the consumers, and the society, in other words, the public. The third stratum is the radical viewpoint that sees antagonism as central to industrial relations; in other words, class struggle in a typical capitalist setting. In our environment without concrete production, it is difficult to define the class struggle in clear terms. It is the reason why working-class struggles often end at the level of workerism, namely, the agitation for improvement in the economic conditions of the workers. As Oladipo Fashina puts it, “…Trade unions, it is said, establish and defend certain rights such as the right of the employees to a certain rate of wages, the right not to work longer than a certain number of hours, the right not to be dismissed without consultation and comprehension, right to safe and healthy conditions of work, etc this is what is called “economistic” conception of trade unions; the economistic conception sees trade union just and only as organisations that in essence defend the welfare of their members, “welfare” here is understood narrowly to mean conditions of employment.”
 
This orthodox working-class position is crudely transferred into the realm of workers relations in the public sector of our economy. It is to be noted, however, that it makes sense to do so in a typical capitalist production setting but unreasonable in a socio-political setting where private capital is often sourced from the state, conceived of as the Rousseauan “general will”. This is why the viewpoint of industrial relations that transcends the narrow view of profit maximization to the production of public goods becomes attractive. In this respect, both employers and employees must contribute to the common good of society. There seems to be a perpetuation of false consciousness in carrying on in antagonist terms without consideration of the public good. Whereas there may be different pathways to achieving the public good, the public sphere must be foregrounded to create the ground for the loyal opposition. I shall address this in subsequent sections of this thought process. But let turn to State-society relations.

To be continued tomorrow

Professor Akhaine delivered this keynote address at the Michael Otedola College of Primary Education Stakeholders’ retreat, organised by HRBP Limited, Saturday, November 13, 2021, at Jubilee Chalet, Epe, Lagos.