11 February 2013

Gambia: One Week After New Work Schedule Commences

As the new working days and hours for workers in the civil service and public sector came into effect as from 1 February, this reporter went to Banjul, the capital city, on the last day of the working week (Thursday) towards closing time to enquire from the concerned workers how they are coping with the change. Below are the views of two civil servants and two parastatal workers who identified the longer working hours and transportation as some of the major challenges in the new work schedule.

A civil servant, who prefers to be identified with his first name, Yankuba, said the long working hours are not viable in terms of productivity. He said since the change came into effect on Monday requiring them to work until 6pm he has not been more productive than before when they closed work at 4pm. He said these long working hours instead make him lazier as he spends the rest of the afternoon after 2pm dozing in his office because of hunger, fatigue and lack of economic incentives. "Since the change, I have not been having enough sleep because I wake up very early every working day to hustle for transport from Tabokoto to Banjul and stay for long hours at work which makes me very hungry and sleepy", he said.

He said the Government should consider the issue whether demanding from workers to work for ten hours makes them more productive than working for eight hours as before. "I don't think it is the number of hours that we spend at the workplace which guarantees productivity. I believe productivity depends on so many factors including the availability of work and the state of mind of the worker. If the worker goes through a lot of difficulties before arriving at his work place and is again subjected to the same problems to reach home, how can such a person be productive?" he asked.

Amie Demba, a civil servant, said she wakes up as early as 5am every working day to prepare her household and children before leaving for work. She said since the commencement of the new work schedule she continues waking up early but would not reach home until in the evening between 7pm to 8pm. She said this new schedule is really impacting on her both physically and economically. "My late arrival at home to attend to the household chores and my children exhaust me physically and can undermine my health."

On the economic aspect, Amie said she spends nothing less than seventy five dalasi (D75.00) a day on food and transportation.This would amount to 1200 dalasis in a month.

"Drivers make us pay for double fares by dropping us at West Field for us to pay again another D7.00 to take us to Tabokoto", she complained.

She appealed to government to revoke the order for the sake of working mothers and housewives like her who bear the brunt of the change in the working days and hours.

A public servant, who works in one of the public enterprises and prefers anonymity, said he lives in Wellingara and encounters a lot of difficulties in getting transport to go to work. He reiterated the problems of paying double fares when drivers stop at West Field for them to struggle for transport again to go to Banjul and the same on the return journey to their homes. He said sometimes it is very difficult to get transport from Wellingara to West Field and some drivers would even ask for hire. He said the new situation has exacerbated the problem as they are now getting to their homes from work well after dusk.

He explained the difficulties he experienced in getting a transport on Monday, the first day, when he had to eventually hire a taxi to go home via the Coastal Road (the other name for the Wellingara and Sinchu road).

He concluded by calling on the government to review the new schedule with the view to revoke it.

Sainabou, another civil servant and a resident of Tallinding, also explained the same challenges being confronted by the previous interviewees such as transport difficulties, productivity, economic costs, physical,social and health implications resulting from the introduction of this new working schedule. She said she spends D100 every working day on transport and food, adding that her transport allowance is so meager.

She also concluded by asking the authorities to reverse the decision as it is not viable.

The government of the Gambia from the office of the president has changed and adjusted the working days and hours for the Civil Service workers. The new policy commenced on Friday, February 1st, 2013. This reporter was in the Capital City of Banjul to sound the opinions of those civil servants affected by the new policy of working for 10 hours a day for 4 days a week. Business people were also asked to express opinion as it also affects businesses.

Lamarana Sowe a businessman said the new policy enforced affects their business. He said on Friday business was very slow, due mainly to the change of working hours and days. He also said that it is mostly on Fridays that he makes his final check-up to find out if he makes profit and how much profit he had made for the week. He then added that this policy is not favorable to them as he has lost a lot of customers who used to buy goods from him on Fridays. He said this policy is not even good as it lessens the growth of development and the economy of the country.

A resident at Coastal road, who travels all the way to Banjul t6o earn his living from transporting goods for people, expressed that Banjul is a congested and busy place to work and make money on working days. He added that on Friday when the change of policy took place, things change as very few people were seen in the city; that one would think that it's not a normal working day. He said this policy is neither favourable to them the labourers nor the economy of the country.

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