21 January 2013

Gambia: Announcement On Change of the Working Hours and Days Is It Viable?


According to the Press Release issued by the Office of the President, the official working days shall be from Monday to Thursday and the official working hours shall be from 8 am to 6 pm. Schools, Banks and other affected institutions may operate on Saturdays. This executive order is said to have been issued after consultation with Cabinet and would come into effect on 1 February 2013. It is also claimed that it is a by-product of a Public demand. Foroyaa will do a Vox Pop to find out what our readers say on the arrangement.

Foroyaa is of the view that this is too major a decision to be taken without setting up a Commission to conduct proper investigation into the merits or otherwise of changing the Official working hours. The decision has legal, professional, Infrastructural, social, business and administrative implications.

First and foremost, every Government needs to fix working time that would equate working hours with fair income as well as give to workers enough time to balance service to the people with leisure and the fulfillment of social responsibilities.

The government needed to give a commission the mandate to look into the implications of changing the working days and time on all those who depend on employment income.

Today, many people who are employed have to travel from a distance to get to and from work. Public transport is not available. Hence they depend on a transport network which has no time schedule. Hence people stand for hours to wait to get transport to go to work and return home. Our impression is that currently, many people go to work in the morning and arrive home late in the evening. In countries that aim to ensure punctuality in reaching work places transport networks are created that ensure timely departure of vehicles to reach the working places on time.

Hence the first problem the government needed to tackle is lateness. This may be done by ensuring the availability of regular transport services to take people to work.

Secondly the starting hour for the delivery of services could have been extended to 9 O'clock in the morning. In this way parents would ensure that their children are on their way to school, while they are on their way to work by 8 am enabling all to arrive at their destination before 9 am. This is the first point.

Thirdly, in most countries, the normal number of hours to work in a week is 40 hours. In short, the 40 hour week, developed as a Union demand in industrialized countries is a by-product of the division of the 24 hours into three parts that is, 8 hours for sleep, 8 hours for work and 8 hours for leisure and fulfillment of social responsibilities.

The President and the Cabinet chose to recommend for people to work for ten hours from Monday to Thursday. When would people get up to go to work in the morning in the absence of a reliable transport network? When will people reach home after closing at 6pm?

Some of the findings we have made so far reveals that the working hours before were from 8 am to 5 pm. However, as people moved from Banjul to the Serekunda end the consequential traffic congestion encouraged the authorities to shorten the closing time to 4 pm to enable people to reach home before dark. If the government wants to make changes it should investigate what led to the change before and why the new initiative is more viable.

Foroyaa will engage in broad consultation and bring to the notice of the readers all the implications of the policy so that its viability could be properly addressed. Notwithstanding this we strongly recommend the establishment of a Commission to study the implications before implementation.

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