Trade dispute is any dispute between an employer and employee.


6/7/20223 min read


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Trade Dispute is defined in Section 47(1) of the Trade Disputes Act as “any dispute between employer and workers or between workers and workers which is connected with the employment or non-employment or the form of employment and physical condition of work of any person.” Furthermore, Section 54 (1) of the National Industrial Court Act defines trade dispute to mean any dispute between employer and employees including dispute between their respective organisations and federations which is connected with: the employment or non-employment of any person, terms of employment and physical conditions of work of any person, or the conclusion or variation of a collective agreement, and an alleged dispute.

The basic legal provision having to do with settlement of industrial or trade dispute in Nigeria is the provision of section 17(1) of the Trade Disputes Act. The section provides thus:

“An employee shall not declare or take part in a lock –out and a worker shall not take part in a strike in connection with a trade dispute where.

a) The procedure specified in section 3 or 5 of this Act has not been complied with in relation to the dispute; or

b) A conciliator has been appointed under section 7 of this Act for the purpose of effecting a settlement of the dispute; or

c) The dispute has been referred for settlement to the industrial panel under section 8 of this act, or

d) An award by an arbitration tribunal has become binding under section 12 (3) of this act; or

e) The dispute has subsequently been referred to the National Industrial Court under section 13(1) or 16 of this act; or

f) The National Industrial court has issued an award on the reference.” Section 17 (2) further provides for the punishment of anyone who contravenes the provision of section 17 (1) of the act.

As provided by the Trade Disputes Act, the machinery for resolving trade disputes is founded on hierarchy which has to be followed, to wit: Trade disputes settlement through the parties, by conciliation, by arbitration and ultimately, by the Court.

In essence, trade disputes when it occurs may be solved through the following means:

1. Through Collective Bargaining by the Parties

Collective bargaining may lead to collective agreement if successful. Section 3 of the Trade Disputes Act stipulates that collective agreements freely entered into by the parties may have the effect of law after being submitted to the Minister of Labour and Employment who has the discretion to make an order specifying the terms and portions of the agreement that shall be binding on the employers and workers.

2. By Conciliation

Section 4(2) of the Trade Disputes Act makes provision that the parties should meet by themselves or their representatives, under the presidency of a mediator mutually agreed upon or appointed by or on behalf of the parties with a view to amicable settlement of the dispute. That is the conciliation step towards settling trade dispute.

3. Through Arbitration

Trade Dispute may be referred to an Arbitration Panel. Once a dispute has been referred to the Arbitration Panel, the chairman constitutes an arbitration tribunal from among the members of the panel. The tribunal may consist of;

a) A sole arbitrator; or

b) A sole arbitrator assisted by assessors; or

c) One or more arbitrators under the presidency of the chairman or Vice-chairman.

An arbitration tribunal has twenty-one days, or such longer period as may be allowed by the minister, to make an award. The award it not communicated to the parties but to the minister, who notifies the parties of the award. The parties have seven days from the date of the notification to object to the award. In the absence of any objection, the minister is bound to confirm the award by a notice of confirmation of the award published in the Federal Gazette. With the confirmation of the award, it becomes binding on the parties concerned.

4. Through the National Industrial Court

After exhaustion of the aforementioned means of settling trade disputes, the parties may then proceed to a court of competent jurisdiction on civil matter relating to trade disputes which is the National Industrial Court for final resolution of dispute.

NB: This article is not a legal advice, and under no circumstance should you take it as such. All information provided are for general purpose only. For information, please contact



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