Friday, August 7, 2009


Many a time, among students of industrial relations, we claim that conflict is endemic in every human grouping and especially in the world of work but we have always failed to give the basic empirical and theoretical analysis underpinning such claim. Karl Marx’s theory of ‘Class Segregation’ therefore will help a great deal in this analysis.
Although, Marx’s theory is basically on the society at large, it is one of the most relevant analytical tools in the explanation of work place and industrial conflict. This is because the workplaces and organizations are microcosms and reflexions of the larger society. While explaining the conflict in workplaces, Karl Marx used ‘historical sketch’ and ‘economic structure’ of the society. He differentiated between the supra-structure and super-structure of the society. Using historical sketch, Marx opined that people had lived a ‘natural life’ in the primitive society. He refers to the primitive days as ‘days of classlessness’ where people get involved in works that suit them. Although, there had been few segregation during the feudal system, Marx believed that the industrial revolution of the late 18th century worsen the situation. To Marx the basic feature of industrialization is the ‘structure’ of the factory system which is strengthened by bureaucracy and thus, brought about class division in the society and work organizations.
Karl Marx used both ‘class segregation’ and ‘class division’ interchangeably but did not explain what he really meant by ‘class’. He however explained it in terms of control and ownership of means of factors of production within the factory setting. The ownership of factors of production thus becomes the yardstick with which Marx explained the division of classes in a society or within workplaces. According to him, those who owned and control the means of factors of production are the first class whom he referred to as ‘Bourgeoisies’, capitalists, affluent, employers, etc. The other class according to him are referred to as Proletariats, the have nots, the oppressed, the employed etc. and they are the one who do not own the means of factors of production but who have their effort and skills to sell to the capitalist and enable him activate all of his means of factors of productions. The capitalist cannot single handedly do the work by himself and cannot control all the factors at his disposal to do the job by themselves except with the ‘labour’ of the proletariats that must be used in activating and putting to use all the factors of production. The proletariat who happens to be the second class in Marxian perspective can only offer his labour to the capitalist provided that he gets the reward needed to take care of himself and his estates (family) and also to survive in life.
Marx differentiated between true class and pseudo-class. He views the two forms in which classes can be manifested as CLASS IN ITSELF and CLASS FOR ITSELF. The latter is what he regarded as true class which can only come when one class becomes aware of his conflicting relations with the other class. Without this AWARENESS Marx fell that a class only constitutes the former who suffers the negative impact of segregation but who does not see it as suffering. Marx referred to this as ‘false consciousness. But when a class realizes that he is being exploited and suffers unjustly, then his false consciousness is transformed to ‘class consciousnesses and thus, a class for itself.
The emergence of conflict in workplace according to Marx can be understood by explaining certain concepts which includes:
(1) Money
(2) Capital
(3) The general law of capitalist accumulation
He began the explanation of conflict from the side of the Bourgeoisie who will always want to accumulate wealth through proper management of his money, capital and property. To the capitalist, capital is not money but money that must produce more money. The trueness of capital is determined by a process which is depicted as M1, C and M2. The M1 is the initial amount that the capitalist invested upon by purchasing commodity (C) which he sells at higher price to get a profitable return (M2) of the M1.
Secondly, for M1 (capital) to continue yielding profit (M2), it must abide by what Marx called ‘the general law of capitalist accumulation’ which states that ‘for M1 to continue yielding M2, all COST must be reduced back towards ZERO, lets not forget that ‘Cost’ in the production process that capitalist must reduced back to zero also includes the cost of labour. It therefore means that for capitalist to continue to maximize his profit he must endeavour to reduce wages and salaries of workers. This is no doubt a condition that workers with ‘Class Consciousness’ will always resent.
At this juncture, there is no need explaining why the two classes in workplace will always be at loggerhead considering the poor state of the proletariate who has nothing to ascertain his survival but his labour that he offers to the Bourgeoisie for payment which the Bourgeois must also purchase at the lowest cost.
The submission above explains the typical nature of industrial or workplace conflict. However it is important to finish up with what Marx feels about how conflict will end in industrial organization. Marx did not blame the capitalist per say but he blames ‘the logic of the capitalist system’ i.e. the bureaucratic structure. He believes that it is this structure that perpetuates the distance between the capitalist and the proletariat. He claims that the proletariats having converted their false consciousness to class consciousness and becomes a class for itself then they will form a REVOLUTIONARY PARTY that will help them start the class struggle against the structure of the capitalist system and replace it with socialist system where classlessness will be reinstalled. The revolutionary party that Marx talks about explains the roles played by TRADE UNIONS in workplaces and ‘classlessness’ in Marx explanation can be conceptualized as industrial democracy that we advocate for in industries today.
By Oludeyi Olukunle Saheed.
Industrial And labour Relations,
Tai solarin University of Education,
Ijagun, Ijebu Ode,


By Oludeyi Olukunle Saheed,
Industrial And Labour Relations,
Tai solarin University of Education,
Ijagun, Ijebu Ode,

Of recent in one of our discussions, my friends and I were deliberating on what are the basic justifications for Industrial Relations to be classified as a social science course or discipline. It was from that conversation that I came to understand that some of us who study industrial relations and who love the course as a discipline cannot defend the assertion that ‘Industrial Relations belongs to the Social Sciences’. As such, my intention in this section is to defend the assertion that Industrial Relations is not only a subset but an active role-playing discipline under social sciences which no doubt is vast growing dramatically to attain its independence.
In justifying the above assertion therefore requires that we identify that the above argument comprises and compares two variables one of which is at a ‘macro’ level while the other is at micro level. These variables are social in nature which no doubt endeavours to study HUMAN INTERACTIONS as well as the consequences thereof. Social Sciences in this write-up thus refer to the macro variables while industrial relations refers to a micro one. However, to do justice to the assertion that Industrial Relations is a social science discipline requires that we give brief explanation of the two phrases.
SOCIAL SCIENCES: The word ‘Social’ simply can be seen as a purposeful relationship between or among persons in their social groups (Ogunbameru, 2006). Social Sciences thus refers to a discipline that tries to explain and predict the behaviour of individuals and groups. In those personal, intrapersonal and institutional level that are not biologically determined. Fagehinbo (2004) contends that social sciences is a branch of science and an organized integrated study of man and his environment both physical and social, emphasizing cognition functional skills, desirable attitudes and actions for the purpose of creating effective citizenry. ‘It is important to state that social sciences are science studies because of the systematic methodologies involved in making research, carrying out social investigation and making objective conclusion (Wale Atere, 1997).
INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS: This on the other hand is a discipline which consciously studies the complex and seemingly unfathomable relationship among people in the world of work with a view to install peaceful co-existence in organization and also helps meet the NEEDS of the people as well as that of organization. Simply put, it is the study of the relationship among government and its agency, employers and their representative and employees and their spokespersons. It is also the study of employment relationship which involves formulation and implementation of rules and policies needed to integrate all differences that exist among the people in the organization for effectiveness.
It can be deduced from the foregoing that industrial relation is a discipline on its own though a subset of the social sciences. It is also a social science which studies social relationships among people (although in institutional and organizational level). It seeks to provide understandings of certain fundamental issues underpinning the state of employment relationship in the society such as social security, social functioning and dysfunctioning, conflict, human management, remuneration and its implications etc. All these are products of social relationships that industrial relations takes care of on behalf of the social sciences.
In addressing those facts that authenticates industrial relations as a social science discipline, it is important that we ask certain questions as (1) what the two discipline study? (2)What is their objective? (3)What is the relationship between the two? The answer to the first question is not far fetched as it is clear from the explanation in the above that the two discipline studies individual and group relationships though under different contexts. This is one basic ground why industrial relations is classified as a social science discipline.
Answering the second question above also, it is obvious from all angle that the two discipline endeavour to achieve ‘advancement of mankind’. It means that while social sciences seek to improve personal, interpersonal and institutional relationship and provide capable citizenry in the larger society, industrial relations also endeavour to improve the living standard of the people in the society though fostering of harmonious employment relations.
While providing answer to the third question above, it can be perceived that the relationship between the two is completely a ‘dependent’ relationship. Professor John T. Dunlop in his system theory of Industrial Relations (1958) contends that industrial relations is a system and a sub-system of the larger social system (society) which consist of several sub-systems within it. All sub-systems within the social system (including industrial relations system) functions interdependently to ascertain the wholistic and effective functioning of the social system. This means that an attempt for one sub-system to dysfunction will obstruct the function of the entire social system. To an extent that can be said that the relationship between the two variables is a symbiotic one.
Furthermore, it can be added to the above submission that IRS is a social science discipline because:
- Social science seeks to ensure social order by preventing social dysfunction’s, IRS also seeks to ensure for organizational peace or orderliness.
- Social sciences studies geography and environmental management in other to ensure a save and conducive living environment for all. Industrial Relation also studies ‘ergonomics’ in other to ensure a save and hygienic working environment for people.
- There is study of ‘power relations’ in both disciplines while one studies power relations between government and citizens, the other studies power relations between employers and employees.
- Those theoretical frameworks that are useful in the social sciences are also applicable in the discipline of Industrial Relations.
- The two disciplines make use of the same procedure and methodology in carrying out research and investigating issues of concern.
The list of these is inexhaustible.
The above justify the assertion that IRS belongs to the social sciences. However, it must be noted that IRS is fast growing to attain its independent as a discipline. This is because of the pervasiveness of ‘employment’ to all human being in the society. Everybody in the society must do one thing or the other to feed himself and survive in the society. IRS which takes care of save employment relations therefore becomes an important resort house from which society derive solutions to predicaments that may emanate from employment relationships. Moreover, IRS is a crossroad where all other discipline meets. Other discipline includes law, politics, economics, accounting, psychology, history etc. The notion that IRS is a discipline that is limited to organizations should therefore be considered as MYOPIC.


It is an incontrovertible statement of fact that the only place where conflict does not exist is in the graveyard. If conflict is therefore pervasive among all human groupings, then organizations are not left out. As such we intend to explain as brief as we can the source, causes and effects of conflict in organizations in this write-up.
Conflict can be seen as the clash of two opposing ideologies or beliefs, interest etc. which results into argument or disagreement. Organizations are compositions of people with different social, educational and religious background who come together to work in unity in other to achieve a common targeted goals that a single person among them cannot achieve single-handedly. There are also two major classes in industrial organization – the employers and the employed – whose goals and aspirations usually contradict and conflict. This no doubt keeps the two social group or industrial actors to often be at loggerhead.
From the above submission, industrial conflict can be defined as ‘all expressions of dissatisfaction within employment relationship especially those that pertain to terms and conditions of employment and the bargaining process involved. This means that for instance at the bargaining table an attempt by one party to cheat on the other party will induce conflict. This is why Ogunbameru (2000) defined conflict as ‘the processes that begin when one party perceives that another party has negatively affected or is about to negatively affect something that the first party cares about’. Industrial conflict is usually used synonymously with TRADE DISPUTE and is defined by the Trade Dispute Act, 1976 as ‘any disagreement or dispute between workers and workers or between workers and employers regarding the conditions of employment or unemployment of workers and the general conditions relating to employment’. Industrial conflict can be formal and informal. The formal conflict is usually carried out in an organized manner by organized group (either labour union or employers’ association) informal conflict is usually unorganized and it is manifested in such attitude as sabotage etc.
Here, it is important to differentiate from ‘sources’ and ‘causes’ of industrial conflict. While the former explains the place or nature with which or from which conflict emanates. It explains the reason why conflict is endemic and inevitable, the latter explains those conditions that may warrant conflict to germinate and become issues of concern. This is because conflict at its source may not necessarily become issues of controversy, confrontation and concerns of all but conflict which is caused (either intentionally or not) will no doubt bring about controversies and confrontations which may not necessarily surface in conflict at its source.
Fajana (2000) identified two sources of conflict which include the (1) internal and (2) external source of conflict
The Internal Sources: are so called because they refer to factors which hare inherent within the framework of an organization. Fajana stated that the major prime factor of internal source of conflict is the ‘opposing interests’ of industrial actors. These ‘divergent interests’ will bring about conflict in attempts by the two parties in organizations to tried to share what Ajibade (2004) called ‘industrial cake’.
Apart from the above, it is another statement of fact that there is usually ‘power relationship’ between the two actors in an industry which no doubt produce conflict and make such inevitable.
External Sources: These are so called because they are outside the four walls of an organization, it may occur when the third party intervention to industrial dispute becomes one sided or bias. A good example is where government as the third and regulatory party tries to formulate policy or enact laws that favour one party at the detriment of the other, such may generate conflict.
As it is, some causes of industrial conflict are numerous and few but those considered important among them will be highlighted
1. Anon-recognition of labour union by the employer
2. Competition over resources or industrial cake. This is exemplified in the Marxist explanation of ‘class conflict’.
3. Autocratic management style
4. Communication breakdown or error
5. Conflicting objectives of the two parties
6. Unfair labour practices
7. Breach of agreement by either of the actors
8. Ambiguous authority and responsibility
9. Arbitrary retrenchment of workers
10. Job insecurity or actualization (sweet shops)
The above are the major factors causing industrial conflicts.
It is pertinent to state here that conflict itself does not directly affect actors in industrial organization rather it usually forces the actors to impose ‘sanctions’ at their disposal on each other so as to inflict economic pain on each other to press home their demand. For workers there are several sanctions or instrument of economic coercion that may be imposed on the employers in other to drive home their demand. These include strike, picketing, wont-to-rule, overtime ban, rag wearing, blacklisting etc. but ‘strike’ remains the most visible weapon used by workers. The employers on the other hand may inflict economic pain on the workers during trade dispute by making use of ‘lack-out, dismissal, suspension, no work no pay etc. ‘lock out’ is the major weapon that employers resort to during industrial action.
It is after this imposition of sanction on each other that conflict becomes effective and inflicts pain on both organizations and the actors within it.
Furthermore, because industrial relation is tripartite in nature, it becomes imperative to identify the effects of imposition of sanction on each actor.

Monday, August 3, 2009


There are no great men without great stories. They tell stories but leave the odd parts (which are the greatest) untold. Greant men undergoes odd and tough times which are not easily disclosable when telling their stories.
The secret of great men lies withing the painful but greatest part of their stories.
I have got my GREAT stories and my GREATNES is on the way...