Workers across The Gambia yesterday 1st May 2012 joined the rest of the world to commemorate Workers Day also known as May Day, with concerns raised by the Gambia National Trade Union Congress (GNTUC) over what they call the precarious terms and conditions of employment prevailing in the country.
The day was set aside to celebrate the social and economic achievements of the international labour movement across the globe, and celebration in The Gambia took the form of a march-past and the traditional May Sports, which featured, among others, track and field events ranging from sprint runs and relays to tug of war, and musical chairs, all held at the Independence Stadium.
In a 13-page declaration of resolutions presented to Kebba Touray, minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment at the MAY Day parade, GNTUC Secretary General Ebrima Garba Cham described the day as a forum for “sober national reflection on our achievements and failures of the previous year, and to make projections for the future within the tendencies of our strengths and weaknesses.”
The resolutions covered several sectors such as transport and agriculture, among others, as well as touching on many areas of concern to workers in The Gambia.
These include the need to implement international labour standards, ensuring a decent workforce, re-establishment of the ministry of labour, social security and social welfare, among others.
Cham stated that with conditions such as “wrongful dismissal, no record of remuneration, pay slips, contribution gaps to social security, excess hours worked not paid, redundancies, intimidation, harassment, the lack of adequate protective clothing and enough ventilation at certain workplaces, we are lagging behind”.
“Such being the case, this necessitates the re-establishment of a national investment board that will set criteria in the line of business to protect the interest of the state, workers and farmers against unscrupulous run away investors,” he added.
The GNTUC Secretary General also recommended that all enterprises should have a human resource department, as in most enterprises there exist no human resource department.
It urged the ministry of justice to speed up the issue of the ex-Palm Grove Hotel workers to be paid their benefits as required by the labour laws of The Gambia, as most of them are family men and still unemployed due to the insolvency of the hotel.
Cham also recommended to the management of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to forget increases in the tariff of Electricity, since 90% of the workforce earnings has a big gap with the Consumer Price Index.
Realizing workers in the informal economy play a vital role in our socio-economic advancement of the country, Cham recommended to the government to formalize the informal workers as they are fully organized into small industries and a federation.
In formalizing them, he went on, the government will realize revenue to the fullest, and workers will enjoy decent work, well motivated to perform and interface effectively and efficiently, and steer the nation forward.
He also recommended that duty (tax) charges to workshops to take the shape of a petty trader’s license like any other trade, as well as charges imposed on tailors per machine head.
The minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Kebba Touray, in his statement in commemoration of Workers Day, noted its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight for work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest.
According to him, “this is a day to honour workers and the trade unions that fought for economic and social rights over the years, but also to reflect on the conditions of work with a view to promoting the general welfare of the worker.
“While we celebrate these achievements, let us take time to reflect on current conditions of workers, the status of the unemployed in our communities and propose innovative ways of addressing these deficits and putting people to work,” Touray stated.
He revealed that the International Labour Organization’s global employment outlook for April 2012 has downgraded its global employment outlook forecast for 2012 and 2013, revising upwards global unemployment rates to 6.1 percent this year and 6.2 percent for next year, an increase of 0.1 percentage point in each year.
The situation, he went on, paints a bleak picture also over the medium term with unemployment expected to remain at over 6 percent until 2016.
“This is a noticeable upward revision of global unemployment in comparison to projections of September 2011 when ILO forecast a global unemployment rate of 6 percent, and noted it would remain virtually unchanged from this rate going forward but still well above its pre-crisis rate of 5.4 percent,” he noted.
He added that closer to home, in contrast to the 2003 Population and Housing Survey that pegged unemployment rate at a low 6%, the results of the 2010 Integrated Housing Survey have shown that the employment rate for the population aged 15-64 is 77% and youthful aged 15-30 is 26%.
This, he said, could be attributed to high proportion of own account workers and contributing family workers in total employment (vulnerable employment rate) at 79%.
In conclusion, trade minister Touray said government is committed to ensuring that all workers and, in particular, disadvantaged or poor workers, need representation, participation and laws that work in their interest.
In that regard, he added, a conducive space has been created in this country for labour unions, employers, organizations and civil society organizations to act on behalf of the disadvantaged or aggrieved.