Are you tired of your working condition, salary structure and irrelevance in the nation? Do you want to get involved in promoting the welfare of your fellow workers? Then joining a trade union is an avenue and platform to achieve your desires. Now the question is, what is a trade union and what are the types of trade unions in Nigeria? So contrary to public knowledge, they are not politically influence unions. They are independent of the political structure of the country, even though they sometimes act as a major contributing factor in ensuring the maintenance of the political structure.
What are trade unions?
Trade unions are an association of workers in a particular profession, industry or trade. Which is also legally binding and possess the capacity to ensure the improvement of the working conditions of its members through collective bargaining.
They are also called labour unions that act as a legal representative of its members.
They help fight for the rights of their members through means like peaceful protests and also in strikes.
And also help to increase the social and economic structure of their unit members.
Most importantly, they promote a unified voice and power of their member units.
Types of trade unions in Nigeria
It is no doubt that we have so many unions in the country.
They cut across the major professions and also trade units existing in the country.
Therefore, in this section, you will discover the 25 prominent unions in the country.
Also, I will be giving a brief history of trade unions in Nigeria and their purpose of formation.
1. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
The Nigeria Labour Congress regards as the most prominent of all unions in Nigeria.
Unlike others that operate on a specialized basis, the Nigeria labour congress covers all categories of workers across the nation.
It is one of the largest trade union institutions in Africa.
Furthermore, it serves as a unified umbrella for trade unions in Nigeria.
And so founded in the year 1978 with Wahab Goodluck as its founding president.
Also was a merger of four different organizations, which are:
- Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC)
- Labour Unity Front (LUF)
- United Labour Congress (ULC) and also
- Nigeria Workers Council (NWC)
Nigeria Labour Congress annul twice during the military regime as a result of conflict between the leadership of the congress and the military government.
Also, it was first to dissolve in the year 1988 under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida.
The second was in the year 1994 during the military regime of General Sani Abacha.
It was later re-established in the year 1999 at the inception of the fourth republic.
Presently, the Nigeria Labour Congress has 46 affiliated unions, making it the biggest amongst the other trade unions in Nigeria.
- Nigeria Labour Congress aims to unite, organize and educate all categories of Nigerian workers.
- Also, to promote the socio-economic and political rights of all Nigerian workers.
- To defend all Nigerian workers from any type of discrimination or exploitation, either from the government or society.
2. Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU)
The Academic Staff Union of Universities is one of the specialized trade unions in Nigeria.
It is also an association of all academic staff in the Nigerian University Sector.
It was introduced by the Nigeria Association of University Teachers.
And it was inaugurate in the year 1978 as the Academic Staff Union of Universities.
Unlike The Nigeria Labour Congress, ASUU is strictly for Lecturers.
They are well known for their constant embarking on strikes to fight for their rights.
- Academic Staff Union of Universities aims to promote good education and learning in Nigerian universities.
- To promote and secure the interests and welfare of its members.
3. The Nigerian Medical Association (NMA)
The Nigerian Medical Association was found in the year 1951.
Presently it has over thirty branches across the nation.
As the name sounds, it is also one of the most respected among other trade unions in Nigeria.
NMA membership cuts across six major aspects of:
- Internal medicine
- public health
- To promote professionalism through access to advance researches and also securing the health of medical workers.
4. Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)
The Nigerian Bar Association established in the year 1933.
It is a professional body that covers all lawyers admitted into the bar in Nigerian society.
Presently the NBA has about:
- 125 branches
- 3 professional sectors
- 2 specialized institutes and
- 6 practice-cadre forums.
It possesses high leverage in the Nigerian Political arena.
- Nigerian Bar Association helps to promote and protect the rule of law.
- To ensure the adequate protection of human rights.
- To ensure the sustenance of good governance in Nigerian society.
5. Nigerian Unions of Teachers (NUT)
The Nigerian Union of Teachers established in the year 1931.
Its formation came as a result of the cut in salaries teachers experience after the great depression.
This experience birthed a sense of job insecurity among the teachers.
NUT is a trade union covering teachers from both primary and secondary schools across the federation.
Its first president was late Oludotun Ransome Kuti.
- The purpose of the Nigerian Unions of Teachers is to promote and protect the socio-economic conditions and also Job security of teachers in Nigeria.
- To promote education in the primary and secondary schools’ unit.
6. Nigeria Insurance Association (NIA)
The Nigeria Insurance Association set up in the year 1971 as a professional body covering all insurance companies in Nigeria.
Since its inception, NIA has provided the insurance companies in Nigeria a platform to speak with one voice to the government.
It has contributed to the formulation of policies influencing the insurance companies in Nigeria
- NIA helps to protect and advance the common interests of insurers in Nigeria.
- NIA also aims at creating and sustaining a positive image for the insurance industry.
7. Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ)
The Nigeria Union of Journalist in Nigeria is a professional umbrella covering all journalists and media professionals in the country.
It was found on 15th March 1955 in Lagos state, as a bid in promoting Nationalism in Nigeria.
And also put to use by our nationalists, to educate the Nigerian society on the need for independence.
Also, it creates the platform to call on international aid for the independence movement.
- To promote and protect media freedom.
- Promotion of media professionalism.
- Protection and sustenance of ethical media standards.
8. Nigeria Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW)
Unlike other trade unions in Nigeria that deals with professionals, the Nigeria Union of Road Transport workers deals and covers all road transport workers, public transport companies, and street park gangs (agberos).
It was established on 6th October 1957.
Though their purpose is not well understood, it is also believe that NURTW helps at:
- Coordinating and regulating of transport fare prices.
- Overseeing of motor parks operation.
- Also, Overseeing the conducts of transport workers.
9. Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN)
Manufacturers Association of Nigeria is a large industrial group representing the interests of about 2000 private and public industries that also deals in manufacturing, construction and service production.
It was established in the year 1971.
- MAN aims at promoting Nigerian products.
- MAN aims at encouraging Nigerian manufacturers to produce products in line with the standards given by the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON)
10. Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN)
The Actors Guild in Nigeria is an organization that regulates the affairs of Nollywood actors.
Hence, it helps in promoting their interests.
It fights against the exploitation of Nollywood actors.
- Actors Guild aims in promoting a unified platform with unlimited opportunities for its members.
11. National Association of Nigerian Traders (NANT)
National Association of Nigerian Traders was established in the year 1997 during the military regime.
And officially registered as a national trade union in Nigeria in the year 2001.
NANTs is a trade union that represents all traders in the industrial, and also raw materials, finished goods and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
NANT membership was later extended to small scale manufacturers of household items and local material providers.
- NANT aims to advance trade beyond just buying and selling,
- Transformation of trade into a potent vehicle for socio-economic development and poverty reduction.
12. Non-Academic Union of Allied and Education Institutions (NASU)
The Non-Academic Union of Allied and Education Institutions is a trade union under the educational sector that was established in the year 1977.
It also represents the junior non -teaching staff in Nigerian universities.
They are also well known for embarking on industrial actions like strikes in fighting for their rights.
- NASU aims at protecting and promoting the interest and welfare of its members both internally and nationally.
13. Nigerian Society of Engineers (NSE)
The Nigerian Society of Engineers is the trade union organization for the engineering profession in Nigerian.
It was found in the year 1958 by a group of young Nigerian Graduate Engineers and students in the Nigerian House in London.
- NSE aims at collaborating, influencing and proving quality advice to the government and various sectors of the nation to uplift the nation.
14. Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP)
The Academic Staff Union of Polytechnic is one of the most influential trade unions in the educational sector in Nigeria.
It was established in the year 1978.
Also helps in bringing all staff of polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of technology into a unified unit.
It makes decisions to promote their interest and that of their organizations.
- To promote the socio-economic conditions of its members.
- Uplifting the standard of Nigerian polytechnic, monotechnics and colleges of technology.
15. Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG)
The Nigerian Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers was officially registered as a trade union in 2nd November 1977 at Benin City, Edo State.
It is one of the strongest trade union in Nigeria.
Its importance cannot be overemphasis not only in the Oil & Gas sector but in the nation at large.
- To organize, protect and secure the socio-economic and political interest of the Oil & Gas workers in Nigeria.
16. National Association of Medical Doctors (NARD)
The National Association of Medical Doctors is an affiliate of NMA.
It is a trade union that represents all medical doctors, either residents’ doctors or those undergoing training in various specializations.
During this pandemic, the NARD was actively fighting for the palliatives for the medical doctors.
Also, NARD decries against the government on the poor conditions of the medical doctors who were at the frontline of treating COVID -19 patients.
- To promote and improve the socio-economic conditions of Nigerian Medical doctors.
17. Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC)
The Trade Union Congress of Nigeria has undergone various transformations in the country.
It was first known as Federation of Senior Staff Associations of Nigeria (FESSAN), then as Senior Consultative Association of Nigeria (SESCAN).
Lastly, it was registered as a trade union on 8th August 2006 as The Trade Union Congress.
TUC is a coalition of senior staff unions of various sectors although it is similar to Nigeria Labour Congress but less powerful than it.
- To promote the interest and welfare of the senior staff in the various public and private sectors.
18. Hospitality and Tourism Management Association of Nigeria (HATMAN)
Hospitality and Tourism Management Association of Nigeria is a professional body for all workers in the hospitality and tourism sector.
Its membership cuts across the entire 36 states of the federation and the federal capital territory.
- HATMAN aims to identify and promote high professional training.
- It helps in maintaining high ethical standards for the management of the industry.
- It provides a platform for its members to acquire quality education in maintaining the hospitality and tourism industry.
19. Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN)
The Directors Guild of Nigeria was established in the year 2001 for the protection and welfare of motion pictures directors in Nigeria.
Therefore, the DGN is a trade union that covers all movies and television directors in the Nigeria society.
- The Directors Guild of Nigeria aims to promote and maintain international standards in filmmaking and television production.
20. Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE)
Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers is a business trade union that is open for companies or manufacturers of food, beverage and Tobacco, who employs a minimum of ten workers.
It was established in the year 1979 under the Trade Union act of 1978
- To promote the interest of members
- AFBTE facilitates the creation of an enabling environment for profitable operations among registered companies.
21. Cocoa Association of Nigeria (CAN)
Cocoa Association of Nigeria is one of the agricultural-based trade union in Nigeria.
It was established in the year 1986 to meet the needs of cocoa farmers and to empower them for better production.
- CAN helps to ensure the sustenance and development of the Nigerian cocoa industry.
22. Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON)
The fisheries Society of Nigeria was found in the year 1976 to promote the fisheries profession.
The membership of FISON spans across
- Fisheries scientists
- Fisheries companies
- Fishers farmers and
- Fisheries entrepreneurs.
It also, serves as the coordinating arm of all fisheries business in the country.
- FISON aims at promoting scientific researches in all aspects of fisheries for the progressive development of the sub-sector.
22. Hotel Owners Forum Abuja (HOFA)
The Hotel Owners Forum found in 2002.
It is a trade union that serves as an umbrella for all owners and investors in the hotel industry in Abuja, Federal Capital Territory.
So, the government well recognises it.
- HOFA aims at protecting and promoting the interests of the hotel founders
24. Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIF)
Association of Senior Staff of Banks, Insurance and Financial institution is a professional trade union that eliminates barriers that prevent senior staff from enjoying their jobs.
ASSBIF also helps to fight for neglect of workers in their areas of coverage.
- ASSBIF aims in strengthening the members – so organisations through professional and managerial training of members.
25. Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU)
It is an Academic trade union that consists of senior staff like senior administrative officers, directors, professors, deputy registrar and registrars.
So, it helps the senior staff to achieve the goals and visions of the university.
- To oversee the activities of the universities in achieving its vision
- To protect and promote the socio-economic rights of its members
Why are trade unions important?
What makes unions important, that we have to give a long list of the types of trade unions in Nigeria, coupled with the history of trade unions in Nigeria?
Are they that indispensable? Let us look at the information below.
- They bargain for an increased pay structure: Also, imagine there is no Nigeria Labour Congress, who will negotiate and fight for the minimum wage of public servants? Trade unions help to ensure that the welfare of their workers is protected. Also they do by negotiating for better sometimes structure for their members, which ordinarily cannot be save individually. Hence they sometimes embark on industrial actions like strikes to force compliance from the government.
- Trade unions bargain for a better working structure for their members: Since the outbreak of the pandemic COVID 19 in Nigeria, NMA and NARD has been fighting serious for a better structure for the doctors, so that in treating the infected patients, they won’t get infected themselves. Others like ASUU, ASUP, NUPENG, etc. are also in the frontline of advocating for a better working structure for their members in relation to their work nature.
- They provide opportunities for their members to have an increased intellectual prowess: Trade unions achieve this by collaborating with both national and international agencies to train and educate their members. These unions also provide platforms and resources for their members to embark on advanced researches and learning.
- Trade unions imbibe democratic culture in their members: So the representatives of trade unions are democratically elected into office by their members. Also, trade unions help to inculcate political culture in their members, which can be seen in their advocacy ‘to go vote’ during the election periods.
- Trade unions support the legislative arm: Hence they do by aiding the formulation of policies and programs for the government in various sectors. Also, all trade unions in Nigeria has one way or the other influence a ton of policies in their various sectors.
Problems of trade unions in Nigeria
Whenever Nigeria problems are divulge, the first is usually ‘corruption’.
Hence trade unions are no exemption from this.
Hence, the reputation and dignity of some trade unions in Nigeria have greatly suffered.
Some reduced to an almost zero point, because of the high-level corrupt practices experienced among its leadership and members.
Hence these corrupt practices can be seen in the forms of:
- Dishonest leadership
- Embezzlement of unions funds and properties by the leaders and members
- Misappropriation of unions funds by the leaders
- Abuse of power and authority
2. Small size:
From the history of trade unions in Nigeria, we could also see that some of these trade unions are very small in terms of their membership capacity.
As a result of this, their relevance and significance are not greatly felt in the nation.
3. Lack of adequate funding:
As given by the long list of trade unions earlier, we can see that we have many trade unions in Nigeria, but a lot of them are suffering from financial weaknesses.
Therefore, this has weakened their capacity to carry out their function effectively for their members and society.
Above all this led to the birth of apathy in union members towards unions, and this takes me to my next point.
This had also led to a lack of motivation and indifference of members towards their unions.
Virtually, most members don’t have an interest in their unions again.
As a result of this, they hardly attend meetings and hardly pay their commitment due.
Hence, this could be a result of the financial weakness of the unions or corruption ongoing in the unions.
5. Disunity among union members:
Two cannot work except they agree.
When there is no unity, they can never be progress nor development.
Most members of the trade unions in Nigeria fight themselves.
If it is not for a position in the union, then it is for one irrelevant matter that can easily sort out.
This has led to the intrusion of hatred in the unions and finally the collapse of the unions.
6. Uneven Concentration:
Most trade unions are found in the urban areas, while some are focus over a particular region.
Hence this makes access and participation difficult for people in rural areas or other regions.
Even more this has contributed to the indifference experienced by some persons who are eager to join these unions.
Despite the problems faced by trade unions in Nigeria, their importance in maintaining a proper work structure cannot be underrate.
Values like honesty, accountability and integrity when imbibed can go a long way in solving some of the problems faced by these unions.
Now that you know the history of trade unions in Nigeria, I hope your perspectives have been changed?