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Workers demand salary increment amid rising prices

May 3, 2011, 1:38 PM | Article By: Cherno Bobb

Workers across The Gambia on Sunday 1st May 2011 joined the rest of the world to commemorate Workers Day also known as May Day, with a call by the Gambia National Trade Union Congress (GNTUC) for a 500 percent salary and wages increase to keep with up with the present cost of living.

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 featured, among others, track and field events, ranging from sprint runs and relays to the tug of war, and musical chairs, all held at the Independence Stadium.

In a 13-page declaration of resolutions presented to Abdou Colley, minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment at the celebration, 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 make projections for the future.”

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, establishment of an enterprise development service, and establishment of a chamber of commerce for agriculture.

The GNTUC official also also noted that workers in the country are faced with precarious terms and conditions of employment, and spoke of the need to remedy the situation in accordance with the country’s Labour laws.

Declaring that prices of basic commodities are increasing, with only a few able to meet the basic necessities of life, and that wages have not increased by the same amount or percentage, Cham emphasized the need to protect wages, adding that no circumstances should justify a reduction in wages.

The recommendations by the GNTUC come amidst a hike in food and transport costs in the country, which has left many people worst off, especially those that have no other source of income apart from their salary.

Cham expressed concern over what he called the precarious terms and conditions of work prevailing in the country, “such as wrongful termination, dismissal, redundancies, intimidation, and harassment without compliance with the Labour laws by unscrupulous investors”.

He also said “default in the payment of social security contributions is rampant”, adding that many pensioned workers have died without enjoying the sweets of their labour, as many employers are in default, and deceased workers’ survivors cannot receive their claims from the social security corporation.

The GNTUC Secretary General condemned the credit buying of farmer’s produce, and went on to recommended to President Yahya Jammeh to establish the Ministry of Labour, Social Security and Social Welfare.

Cham further recommended that the Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment establishes an enterprise development service; and to establish a tripartite taskforce that will conduct labour inspection to redress the prevailing precarious terms and conditions of employment in the country.

The GNTUC official also recommended that the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs promotes the creation of investment banks, construction banks, and agricultural banks.

While congratulating President Jammeh, the Gambia Government, the ILO and stakeholders for embarking on a decent work country programme, Cham recommended to the Public Service Commission to include health insurance for civil servants, and revise the integrated pay scale of the civil service to meet the basic necessities of life.

“Consider the equitable allocation of state resources in the form of emoluments is also very crucial so as to improve the living conditions of public servants, and thus discourage corruption, which is not moral and legal, and would not benefit society,” he added.

On regional integration, Cham said that the integration of West Africa should be a collective responsibility of all states that signed its conventions and treaties, while noting that the non-state actors have a role to play in the integration process.

 “Some of the issues that needed attention are the issues of human rights violations, human trafficking and illegal drugs trafficking, and to come up with solutions to overcome the many challenges facing the sub-region.”

He also underscored the need for the government to develop a national transport strategy for the country, including public transport and commercial ferries, and to revitalize GPTC.

The minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, Hon. Abdou Colley, in his statement, said the government recognizes that a country’s most critical resource is its people, who are not only the drivers of its development but also at the pinnacle of its development agenda.

“Therefore, a country must make concerted efforts to tackle head on anything that threatens the welfare of its people who are the bedrock of its very existence. It is in this regard that the Government of the Gambia continues to allocate huge quantum of resources to human capital formation to enable availability of healthy, skilled labour to industries, as amply demonstrated by the construction and rehabilitation of schools, health outfits, among others, across the country,” Colley added.

He called on employers to realize that enhancing employability and employment of labour is a collective enterprise, in which they also have a critical role to play.

 “They should realize that investing in human capital formation and providing a conducive work environment can only yield positive returns,” he added.