what are trade Unions

WHAT ARE THE ACTIVITIES OF TRADE UNIONS? Definition of trade union: A trade union is an association of workers formed to enable the members to take collective, rather than individual, action against their employers in matters relating to their welfare and conditions of work.

Trade unions are an important component of the Nigerian labour market. They serve as a platform for workers to collectively bargain for better wages and working conditions. Trade unions in Nigeria have a long and storied history, with the first union being established in 1912. Since then, they have played a critical role in advocating for workers’ rights, influencing government policies, and shaping the country’s economic and social landscape.

There are several trade unions in Nigeria, each representing a different sector of the economy. The most prominent of these unions include the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the United Labour Congress (ULC). The NLC is the largest and most influential union, with over 5 million members across various industries. The TUC, on the other hand, represents workers in the private sector, while the ULC is a relatively new union that was formed in 2015.

One of the major achievements of Nigerian trade unions has been their role in advocating for minimum wage increases. In 2019, the NLC successfully negotiated a new minimum wage of N30,000 ($78) per month, which represented a 66% increase from the previous wage. This was a significant victory for workers in Nigeria, who had been struggling to make ends meet due to the high cost of living.

Trade unions in Nigeria have also been active in pushing for better working conditions, particularly in the country’s oil and gas industry. In 2020, the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) threatened to go on strike over concerns about job security, unpaid salaries, and unsafe working conditions. The union’s action prompted the government to intervene and address these issues, leading to a resolution of the dispute.

Despite their successes, Nigerian trade unions face numerous challenges. One of the biggest challenges is the government’s attitude towards unionization. The Nigerian government has been known to use various tactics to undermine the activities of trade unions, including intimidation, harassment, and violence. This has made it difficult for unions to operate freely and effectively.

Another challenge facing Nigerian trade unions is the issue of factionalization. In recent years, there have been several instances where unions have split into multiple factions, each with their own leadership and agenda. This has weakened the unions’ ability to effectively represent their members and negotiate with employers and the government.

In conclusion, Nigerian trade unions have played a critical role in advocating for workers’ rights and improving their working conditions. They have achieved significant victories, including the recent increase in the minimum wage. However, they face numerous challenges, including government interference and factionalization. Despite these challenges, trade unions remain a vital part of Nigeria’s labour market, and their role in shaping the country’s economic and social landscape cannot be underestimated.

 They are formed by workers who seek protection and promotion of their interests.

Lists of trade unions in Nigeria

 Examples of trade unions are the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG),

National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nigerian Union of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions Employees (NUBIFIE) and the bigger umbrella, the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC).

What are the Objectives of trade unions?

  •  To secure good wages for members
  •  To participate in policy formulation of their respective organizations.
  •  To secure employment for those members who have no jobs.
  •  Trade unions also make it their responsibility to safeguard the interests of members.
  • They also regulate the entry qualifications into the various professions.
The weapon that can be used by a trade union during a trade dispute

Trade unions can insist on achieving their objectives during trade disputes by using the following weapons or methods.

  •  Collective bargaining: In this method, representatives of the union and employers will meet to negotiate or deliberate on issues affecting the workers.

  • Work to rule: This involves the slowing down of the rate of work by workers. They will come to work but the rate of work will be slowed down by the workers.
  •  Picket lines: This involves the workers staying at the entrance of the factory and refusing to work.
  • Threat to strike: The workers’ union gives an ultimatum to the employer that they will embark on strike if their demands are not met on time.
  • Strike: The workers will stay away completely from work. This is the ultimate weapon.

Employers’ Association as a type of trade union


Employers’ association is formed to enable members to adopt a common policy in labour negotiations.

A good example of an employers association is that of the Nigerian Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) formed in 1957.

While trade unions are usually interested in negotiations about wage increases and improving the working conditions of workers, employers’ associations are normally interested in discussing ways of increasing productivity.

 Through collective bargaining on these matters, mutual agreements are reached by both the trade union and employers’ association.

Weapons that can be used by employers’ associations during a trade dispute

Employers’ associations can insist on achieving their objectives in trade disputes by using the following weapons or methods.

  • Collective bargaining: In this case, both the employers’ association and the trade union representatives will meet to discuss the workers’ demands.
  • Strike Breakers: In this method, the employer will use some workers to operate the plant during the period of the strike.
  • Blacklist: All workers that participate in strike action can be dismissed.
  • Lock-out: This involves the closing down of the factory by the employer until the dispute is resolved.
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