Trade union responses to precarious work in the Nigerian oil and gas industry

Kode, Florence Efe (2021) Trade union responses to precarious work in the Nigerian oil and gas industry. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The literature on varieties of capitalism argues that liberal market economies encourage weaker unions and job insecurity for organisational profit maximisation. Multinational companies hold huge control over Nigeria’s economy through a variety of resources such as capital, technology, knowledge, skills and a market share greater than that of the host country. Profit-seeking multinational companies transfer human resource practices from their home countries and so do not adhere to the rules of the host country. The drive to galvanise profits and satisfy stakeholder resolve to increase profitability motivates organisations to embark on precarious forms of job engagement that leave workers and trade unions in disarray. The growth in precarious work in the Nigerian petroleum sector over the last three decades is a cause of concern for workers, trade unions and national and international labour organisations. Employment relations in organisations in the petroleum sector are on a downward trajectory with some categories of employees being completely cut off from affiliating with labour organisations due to their status of employment. Outsourcing and offshoring of labour are new trends, synonymous with low wages, lack of union affiliation, lack of benefits and job insecurity. Evidence from this study shows that post-colonial Nigeria has not deviated from its history. The divide and rule strategy applied during British colonial rule is still evident in the employment offered by multinationals. The subservient style of engagement used during colonial rule is still applicable, with workers not allowed to engage in trade union activities and lacking any voice in an oppressive working environment. A qualitative case study is conducted based on in-depth one-on-one interviews of thirty-four (34) participants focused on trade unions officials, managers/management staff, HR personnel, permanent employees and precarious workers in the petroleum sector. The data for this study were analysed through a qualitative data analysis method of thematic analysis. The findings demonstrate a strategic elimination of trade unions through various multinational company policies that potentially increase job insecurity, reduce pay, remove employee benefits and cause union avoidance. The implications for these findings are that these policies facilitate the drive for profitability while weakening trade unionism. The findings reveal a weak legal framework in Nigeria, weak institutions and an inability of unions to respond to new trends in employment. The study, therefore, recommends an urgent re-evaluation of the rights of precarious workers, the enforcement of labour protection, rights to collective bargaining and improved standards governing contractual relations.

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