May 5, 2009, 7:17 AM
Gambia National Transport, Agriculture, Food and Industrial Workers Union has
again voiced out its frustration over the way the Ministry of Trade, Industry,
Regional Integration and Employment handles issues of the union.
The union organised a press conference at its offices, located at the premises of the Gambia Red Cross Society at Westfield on Wednesday.
Ousman Drammeh, president of the union, said the existence of the union, established in 1986, is “under serious threat” now due to the Ministry of Trade’s “continued suppression” of its activities.
He said since February, the union has not been able to do anything as regards the operations of commercial trucks in the country.
“The Ministry of Trade continues to marginalise Gambian trucks in favour of Senegalese, Lebanese and Mauritanian trucks.
“Gambian truck drivers, for the past months, continue to face serious problems as the support of the ministry is not forthcoming.”
The president of the union said the behaviour of the ministry shocked and surprised him.
“I keep wondering why favour drivers from neighbouring countries and ignore our own drivers,” he lamented.
According to Mr Drammeh, the issuing of manifests to truck drivers at the Gambia Ports Authority is now in the hands of Senegalese authorities.
“The minister [of the Ministry of Trade] is fully aware of this, but he is keeping quiet and when we talk about it, he would not listen.”
Drammeh further accused the ministry of denying the transport union’s its responsibility of issuing manifests to cargo brokers.
“This is why the Gambian truck drivers are finding it difficult to transport merchandise, while their Senegalese counterparts are given total control at the Gambia Ports Authority.
“I cannot still understand why the ministry is denying us from executing our duties as executive of the union.”
Mr Drammeh’s executive was elected into office at a congress held on 24 April 2016, when the then transport association was dissolved by the government.
“During the congress, we adopted a document on the recommended working conditions, as per the Labour Act. The document was later forwarded to the Ministry of Trade for consideration, but they said they will developa standard one;up to now we yet to hear from them.”
“The minister of Trade should understand that the powers vested on him as the minister under the Labour Act does not warrant him to lobby or organise unions or interfere with their work.”
Drammeh said because of the Trade ministry’s denial of the operation of the transport union, more than 100 commercial truck drivers are sitting down, for the past four months, without any work to do.
Kebba Masanneh Ceesay, secretary general of the Gambia Labour Congress, said the minister of Trade should understand that he is working under a ministry that is tasked to create, and not to discourage jobs.
“The transport union is very interested in ensuring that the rights and welfare of Gambian drivers is looked after,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the press conference, one after the other, the truck drivers lamented their frustration with the way their issues are being handled by the ministry of Trade.