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Organised Labour: Stop Beating Fellow Workers During Strikes


The nationwide strike called by organised labour has now been suspended and the combatants are back to the negotiation table.

However, the ripples of the nationwide strike that lasted two days are still being felt by workers who were beaten up and intimidated by unionists during the strike.

In Nigeria, as in many parts of the world, the right to strike is a fundamental part of labor rights.

Strikes are a powerful tool that workers can use to press for better wages, working conditions, and other critical issues.

However, there is a troubling trend where striking unionists resort to violence against fellow workers and private sector employees to enforce participation in strikes.

This practice is not only morally wrong but also illegal.

It is essential to uphold the rights of all individuals, recognizing that not everyone wishes to join strike actions, and not all workers are government employees.

Striking is a legitimate means for workers to express their dissatisfaction and demand better conditions.

However, just as workers have the right to strike, they also have the right to choose not to participate in a strike.

Forcing individuals to join a strike through intimidation or violence undermines the very principles of freedom and democracy that unions often claim to uphold.

Violence against non-striking workers is a grave injustice.

No cause, no matter how righteous, justifies the use of force to compel others to join in.

Physical assaults, threats, and harassment of fellow workers are illegal and morally indefensible.

Such actions betray the values of solidarity and mutual respect that unions should promote.

The recent incidents where striking unionists have beaten fellow workers are deeply troubling.

These actions not only harm individuals physically but also create a climate of fear and hostility in the workplace.

Coercion and brutality are not the paths to achieving fair labour practices; instead, they erode trust and sow division among workers.

Not all workers are government employees, and not all wish to participate in strikes. The reasons for this vary.

Some may feel that striking is not the most effective way to address their grievances.

Others might have personal or financial reasons that make participating in a strike untenable.

Additionally, many workers in the private sector may face different challenges and priorities compared to their counterparts in government employment.

It is crucial to respect these individual choices.

Forcing a one-size-fits-all approach to labour action disregards the diversity of workers’ experiences and needs.

Everyone should have the right to decide whether to join a strike without fear of retribution.

Unions play a vital role in advocating for workers’ rights and improving working conditions.

However, they must do so within the bounds of the law and ethical conduct.

Resorting to violence damages the credibility and moral authority of unions.

It also alienates potential allies and diminishes public support for their cause.

Effective union leadership involves persuading and mobilizing workers through dialogue, education, and negotiation, not through coercion.

Building a broad-based coalition of support requires understanding and addressing the concerns of all workers, including those who may be reluctant to strike.

Using violence to enforce strike participation is illegal.

It constitutes assault and battery, crimes that can lead to arrest and prosecution.

Beyond legal repercussions, there are significant moral implications.

Striking unionists must remember that their struggle is for justice and fairness.

Engaging in violence contradicts these principles and undermines the legitimacy of their cause.

Moreover, the public perception of unions is critical. Acts of violence against non-striking workers tarnish the image of labour movements, making it harder to gain public sympathy and support.

Maintaining high ethical standards is essential for unions to advocate for their members and the broader working population effectively.

Just in case organised labour returns to the streets again, it is imperative to foster a culture of respect and mutual understanding with other Nigerians.

This means educating union members about their rights and responsibilities and emphasising non-violent means of protest and negotiation.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the other unions should focus on creating inclusive strategies that consider the diverse circumstances of all workers.

By doing so, they can build a more united and powerful movement that can effectively advocate for better wages and conditions without resorting to force.

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