30 January 2013

Gambia: Reflection of the New Working Hours

A National Debate has unfolded on the new working hours. Since the country has to be governed in accordance with the rule of law many have asked what the law says about the determination of the working hours. This should not be arbitrarily determined.

The powers of the President, the Ministers and public servants are vested by the Constitution and other laws enacted by the National Assembly. The powers to give orders and issue proclamation should be rooted in a law providing for such a decision. The proclamation also does not become lawful order unless it is published in the official gazette.

We have searched the gazettes and do not see any publication of the public notice. We will follow the matter up to get clarity on the legal issue. The official working hours should be statutorily established to be able to give a lawful basis for labour relations.

Some of the views expressed are as follows:

A teacher from the North Bank explained that his family is based in his village and he used to go home after the Friday prayers which was very convenient for him to get transport and would leave his village on Sunday in the afternoon. He lamented that if they have to work on Saturday he would have to leave for home on Thursday and come back on Friday to teach on Saturday and then leave on Saturday to come back on Sunday to teach on Monday. He said the shear cost of travelling and the small time he would be able to spend with his family confirms that he would be disadvantaged by the decision.

Another person living in the coastal road area spoke about the different transport networks that one has to take to get home. She pointed out that with the traffic congestion one would not be able to reach home before the Maghreb prayer if one closes at 6 pm.

Another person who has to take the ferry every working day to come to Banjul explained that if one closes at 6pm it would be impossible to cross with the ferry and arrive at home before 8pm.

Two things could have been responsible for the 8am to 4pm schedule. The first consideration is to give opportunity to commuters in Barra and other villages as well as the Serrekunda and Kombo area. Any schedule that is later than 4pm would be inconvenient to the people living in the areas mentioned. This is the first point.

Secondly, it is internationally accepted and promoted by organized labour that the working day should not exceed 8 hours and that the weekly hours of work should not exceed 40 hours. Any time beyond this becomes overtime. This is why many countries have a working day of 8 hours for five days in the week. In the Gambia, it is because of Friday prayers that it was decided to reduce that 8 hour working day. This is why the closing time on Friday is 12.30pm. In many countries one hour break is given and the workers close at five. In the Gambia since there is no official break time, workers close at 4pm.This is how matters stand.

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