A trade union is an organized association of workers or employers from related fields – trades, profession or industry, who come together for the purpose of protecting its members against exploitation by their employers or supervisory or regulatory bodies, and ensuring the maintenance and improvement of their collective interests. Such collective interests include, but not limited to, their wages, working terms and conditions, their rights, policies relating to health and safety, maternity and work, gender related issues, sexual harassment, forced labour, and minimum wage amongst many others. Trade union is also referred to as labour Union.

Trade Unions in Nigeria

In solving problems, two or more people are always better than one, and great things in business are faster achieved by joint effort. This can best be described as the very purpose of a trade union. The elected union executives act as the mouthpiece of members within a particular trade, industry, company or profession. The trade union acts as an intermediary between employees (its members) and their employers (this could be government parastatals or private institutions/organizations).

There are lots of trade unions in Nigeria, which have been grouped under two broad umbrellas: the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC). An example of such is the National Union of Road Transport Workers (NURTW), Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), Judiciary Staff Union of Nigeria (JUSUN), e.t.c.

The main applicable laws regulating Trade Unions in Nigeria are; the Labour Act (Cap L1 LFN, 2004), the Trade Union Act, (Cap T14, 2004), and the Trade Disputes Act (Cap. 432 LFN 1990).

The Labour Act is the primary legislation which deals with the relationship between an employer and its employees. Going by the provisions of the Act, the Act is not applicable to all classes of employees in Nigeria. It only covers employees engaged under a contract of manual labour or clerical work in the private and public sectors, as the Act describes them as workers. It doesn’t cover persons whose roles are administrative, executive, technical or professional in nature, these group of employees are called “Non-workers) and the terms and conditions of their employment are generally guided by their employment contract.

The Trades Disputes Act on the other hand provides for dispute settlement, arbitration, and conciliation. It also establishes the National Industrial Court with jurisdiction over trade dispute matters. The main issues that form the subject of the Act are freedom of association, collective bargaining and industrial relations

Trade Unions in Nigeria


  1. It helps build teamwork spirit among workers: Every trade union has its set goals and objectives which are aimed at benefiting its members. These goals and objectives can only be achieved when all hands are on deck with all members fighting the same course collectively. Trade union therefore calls for the collective efforts of every member, brings them together, and spurs the teamwork spirit in them.
  2. It fosters unity among persons working in related fields and across board, notwithstanding whether or not they work in the same organization
  3. It brings about innovation: Trade unions serve as a platform where persons from the same field, occupation or profession meet and interrelate. They are able to share ideas, and proffer solutions to common problems encountered in their course of duty, thereby making their profession of greater value to them and the society at large.
  4. Trade union also serves as a means of checkmating incidences of poor working practices and non-compliance with labour standards in work places. It is a good medium through which workers can report such incidences without any fear.
  5. It promotes equal opportunities at work place, by addressing every form of discriminating policies.
  6. Being important players in the Labour world, trade unions are usually abreast of latest news, policies and regulations that affect their members and employers. They therefore helps their members to stay up to date with these news.
  7. Trade unions bring about high productivity of workers by negotiating between them and their employers on the several issues that border on workers’ welfare, such as:
  • Health and hazard insurance
  • Minimum wage
  • Working hours, rest hours and annual holiday
  • Sick leave
  • Maternity
  • Protection from discrimination
  • Safety and welfare
  • Termination of employment

Persons in a trade, profession or industry can come together and register a union with the necessary regulatory bodies, as they have a constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association. To register a union or association, or to know more about registering one, you may click here to contact us.


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