As a New Year is about to be ushered in, the leadership of the Gambia Dock and Maritime Workers' Union is renewing its incessant request for an audience with the executive on their plight and also expressing hope that 2014 will mark an end to six years of suffering of its members who are without work and income. The leadership is still challenging the decision of the management of Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) to terminate the services of dockworkers, as stated in a press release issued on the 1st August 2007, and demanding for a review and reversal to allow them to continue to operate as independent stevedores, as is the case in many countries.
Visiting Foroyaa to appeal once again to the concern authorities, Mr. Amadou Touray, the Acting President of the Union, and Ousman Senghore, a member, speaking on behalf of the membership, are still arguing that by virtue of the fact that they have never been part of the staff of GPA, their services cannot be terminated by its management.
"The premise of our argument is that you cannot terminate the service of a person you did not employ in the first place, and this is precisely what GPA has done when it terminated the service of some of us and absorbed others without any legitimate cause," said Mr. Touray.
The dockworkers' representatives said they are reminding the authorities that as family heads and sole breadwinners, their situation has become unbearable, as they have been forced to remain unemployed for more than six years now without any means of legitimate earnings to sustain their families.
"We have been exchanging letters with management and making numerous appeals to the concern authorities through the media, but the impasse still persists.
We are therefore requesting for an audience with the executive to put an end to our plight. While struggling for our right to work and earn income and trying to cope with the hardships, some of us have passed away, while others are grappling with poverty induced illnesses and physical disabilities," said Mr. Touray.
They explained that GPA has never been their employer and was only mediating between them, the stevedores, and the agents of the vessels (cargo ships). Further explaining their relationship with GPA, Mr. Senghore added, "The Ports has never paid our salaries and social security contributions.
It has always been the vessels which pay for our services of discharging and loading cargo. Even the payments of the medical bills for the injuries we sustain at the workplace have always been our own responsibility."
The dock and maritime workers insist that the management of the operations of stevedores is better handled and served if it is left in the hands of the dockworkers.
They concluded by calling on their affected colleagues to keep hope alive as they continue the struggle to restore their office and operations and make every effort for redress from the concern authorities.