The State and Industrial Relations: Background to the Adoption of Compulsory Arbitation Law in Australia and Nigeria

AuthorPaul Omojo Omaji
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8543.1993.tb00379.x
Publication Date01 Mar 1993
Britislr
Journal
of'
Inciustriul Relations
31
:1
March
1993
0007-11180
The
State
and Industrial Relations:
Background to the Adoption
of
Compulsory Arbitation
Law
in
Australia and Nigeria
Paul Omojo Omaji"
Final version accepted
27
May
1092.
Abstract
Conventional wisdom maintains that industrial turmoil accounts largely for
the enactment
of
the compulsory arbitration law, the Conciliation and
Arbitration Act
1904
and the Trade Disputes (Emergency Provisions) Decree
1968,
in Australia and Nigeria respectively. Considering this view
us
patently
inadequate, the paper investigutes a broader background
of
this luw
in
both
countries and finds more critical fuctors at work. Important us the industrial
turmoil was, this facror turned
out
ro
be
merely a symptom
of
a more
fundamental phenomenon, namely the lack
of
an institutionalized consensual
collective bargaining system, arising largely from a similar form
of
interaction
between
the
scare and industrial relations
in
both countries.
1.
Introduction
The adoption of a fundamentally similar compulsory arbitration law
in
Australia (Commonwealth) in
1904
and Nigeria
in
1968
seems puzzling,
because the countries appear at first sight very different. Obviously, the
adoption of this law marked the beginning of an unprecedented form of state
intervention in the industrial relations systems of each country. This state
approach
to
industrial dispute resolution
in
Australia and Nigeria is
generally attributed to the industrial turmoil experienced in those countries
in
180W
and
1963-4,
respectively. What is less obvious is how the broader
interaction between the state and industrial relations, not merely the force
of the industrial turmoil, facilitated the adoption of this law. This paper
argues that the enactment of the compulsory arbitration law is the
culmination of a process that created 'government-dependent' industrial
actors, inhibited the development of voluntary/consensual collective
*Australian Institute
of
Criminology, Canberra
38
bargaining and,
ips0
fucto,
laid the foundation for the institutionalization of
such an ‘unusual’ law or,
in
Mote’s (1919:
11)
words, a ‘legislative taboo’ in
both countries.
The immediate social, economic and political climates
in
which this law
emerged were significant. Factors such as the liberal middle-class politics,
the volatile nature of the economy and the ‘deals’ over protectionist policy
in
Australia, and the civil war and the military regime in Nigeria, were critical.
So
also was the tradition of social control which
in
my
view derived its
character from
the
peculiar process of the state formation
in
both countries.
Yet, given the constraint of space, these factors can be highlighted here
more implicitly than expressly. In the main, the paper details one critical
historical process, i.e. the interaction between the state and industrial
relations systems, involving
(1)
the creation and maintenance of the labour
markets,
(2)
the
raison d’btre
of the organization of labour and capital, and
(3)
the industrial turmoil that struck the ‘moral conscience’ of both
countries prior to the adoption of the arbitration law.
It
will
be shown that in
1904
and 1968 the conditions in both countries, resulting from
the
interpenetration
of
the elements of this process, were markedly similar, and
thus produced a similar direct legislative response in Australia and Nigeria
at those respective times.
British Journuf
of
Industrial Relations
2. Creation and control
of
labour markets
One of the basic determinants of the nature of any country’s industrial
relations
is
the labour market, involving the whole complex
of
structures
that ‘make labour power a commodity’ (i.e. the creation of wage labour) and
guarantee ‘the accumulation of capital out of the labour process’ (Connell
and Irving
1980:
19). Invariably, these structures ensure the availability arid
discipline
of
labour, and a fair ‘return’ to the buyers
of
labour power. Under
this heading
1
address the question: What aspects of these structures proved
congenial to the emergence of compulsory law in Australia and Nigeria, and
how similar are they?
The creation and control of the labour markets
in
Australia and Nigeria
began with a heavy involvement of the state. In the early white settlement
of
Australia and the early colonial period in Nigeria, the responsibility
fell
entirely to the state to ‘create’ and discipline labour for both public and
private employment and services. Confronted with the demand for
the
construction of a basic infrastructure for the penal settlement that began in
1788, and for the comfort of the officers and officials of this settlement, the
state
in
Australia introduced a convict assignment system. Describing how
this system began,
T.
A. Coghlan remarks:
As
there was no other labour obtainable
-
there being not a dozen free men
outside the ranks
of
the soldiers,
sailors
and civil officers
-
the Governor [Captain
Phillip] found it expedient to grant
to
those whose position admitted
of
thc

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