International Journal of Humanities and Social Science

ISSN 2220-8488 (Print), 2221-0989 (Online) 10.30845/ijhss

The Significance of Public Interest as a Factor in Precipitation of Collective Action among State-Employed Professionals in Nigeria
Ndukaeze Nwabueze

By definition, trade unions exist principally to protect the interest of registered members through defence of the best possible terms and conditions of their employment. Over time, some unions, in consideration of issues outside their immediate work environment, such as crisis and inefficiency in social services by the state, have been drawn beyond union interest and embarked on strike to protect public interest. In some occasions this action brings the unions on collision course with the government. Considering the legal, political, moral and industrial relations implications of such actions, some observers have queried the propriety as well as union right to protect interests outside that of its registered members. In Nigeria, this behaviour tends to be common with the central labour bodies, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and two leading national unions of state-employed professionals, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Academic Union of Universities (ASUU). This contribution focuses more on the professional unions and seeks among others to assess the attitude of professionals to the protection of extra-union or public interests; to see if professional training and orientation plays any role in shaping this attitude; why unions of professionals are leading defenders of public interest; and, the significance of public interest as determinant of collective action among professionals. To interrogate these issues, a sample of 942 medical practitioners and University lecturers was drawn through clustering the two groups of state-employed professionals throughout the country into the nationally recognized six geo-political zones. Federal and State-government dons and doctors were covered. A combination of theories focusing on the state organized around Social contract and Alienation are used to explain how professionals came to find their unions between the state and citizens as ‘social messiah’. The finding is that these professionals, also as intellectuals, consider the role of ‘social defender’ as a duty thrust on them by ‘opportunity’- their learning and the organizational platform provided by unionism, as well as ‘state failure’ to provide governance. Such action, they opine, is inevitable as long as the gap continues between state-citizen perception of state capacity and action.

Full Text: PDF