Transport struggle frustrates workers at Westfield

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The frantic struggle for transport after closing from work at Gambia’s famous Westfield Junction is frustrating civil servants who are now pointing accusing fingers on public transport drivers for deliberately putting them in the debilitating situation on daily basis.

Workers say the situation is now forcing them to stay for long hours on the road before they could catch a public transport to go home after closing from work.  

This is significantly affecting workers who used to pay three fares before arriving to their final destinations. Workers who travel from Brikama, some 46km from the capital, Banjul to go to work in Serrekunda and other big towns say the situation is seriously affecting them considering their meager salaries which now apparently consumed by transport fares.

Majority of them join the public transport to and from work and usually arrive at work late due to the congestion of the only main road to Serrekunda, Banjul and other areas during rush hours. Salaries are low with government integrated pay scale starting from 1,500 dalasi, which can only provide a bag of rice in a house.

Gambian roads are small in size and during closing hours, the road is congested due to the increasing number of plying cars but workers said despite the availability of many cars on the roads, their daily transport dilemma continues to increase.

Transport system in the tiny West African nation with a population of 1.8 million people is not well regulated. Workers’ arrival to and from work now entirely depends on how they are treated by the drivers. “In fact, sometimes they will collect three fares from us before we finally reach Brikama,” one of the workers said while waiting for transport to Brikama.

Some six months ago, the government announced a nationwide transport fare reduction following the reduction on fuel prices but many drivers had protested against the decision, saying it does not favour them. Some were arrested in Serrekunda, the biggest town in The Gambia after setting car tyres on fire on streets in protest of the fare reduction.

On Monday, transport fare increment to its previous rate was announced again and this was again greeted with criticism from the working class.

Last week the country’s finance minister Amadou Sanneh tabled the 2018 national budget  before the National Assembly which features some prospects for the country and the civil servants. Salary increment was one of the highest expectations of the working class but increment was featured on only allowances like transport and house.

“We are also working to feed our families. We normally get money to buy fuel during peak periods when workers are going to work and during closing time,” one of the drivers protested during an interview with this reporter.

Author: Amadou Jallow