Stakeholders on Thursday converged at a local hotel in Kololi, to debate on a wide range of issues, bodering on some inconsistencies in the provisions of the Gambia Labour Act 2007.
The seminar followed a series of consultative meetings with the Ministry of Trade, the Gambia Bar Association and the Gambia Investment and Export Promotion Agency (GIEPA), during which the need to organise a seminar on the importance of good labour law relations and policy in promoting investment in the country were being discussed.
Organisers said in recent times there have been a number of queries levied against the Labour Act 2007, with both employees and employers often pointing out some inequitable nature of the provisions in the Act. Law practitioners, on the other hand, have also observed the issue of inconsistency in the Act, particularly, as compared to the international standards.
The daylong seminar, however, gave participants the opportunity to debate on the provisions as contained in the Act, with a view to evaluating it against international best practices. The outcome of the seminar, officials said, would be used as a basis to advocate full revision of the Act, which will serve as a catalyst, not only for business and investment promotion, but also an improvement in the employer-employee relations.
In his statement, Abdou Kolley, the minister of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment, which was read by the permanent secretary, Nafie Barry, stated that it has been observed that after several years of implementation, that there has been an increasingly growing need to review the Act, to address some of the shortcomings identified, as well as align it with new emerging issues in the dynamic labour market. "This review seminar, thus, marks the beginning of a process that will allow you to reflect on the realities and features of the domestic labour market, with a view to achieving good labour relations essential to boosting domestic and foreign direct investment in the country," she said.
PS Barry, on behalf of the Trade minister also stressed that people are the most critical resources to the government, that's, why the government pays particular attention to the plight of the workers, who are at the apex of its development agenda, as stipulated in the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment (PAGE).
Government, she added, recognises that realising the PAGE objectives will be seriously constrained in an atmosphere where labour relations are inimical to investment, thus the need to have labour laws that are unambiguous, balanced and address the needs of all parties concerned.
Cognisant of the fact that investment, both domestic and foreign, is needed for wealth and employment creation necessary for poverty reduction, PS Barry acknowledged that employment will be created on the scale need, if investors perceive that poor labour relations will dim their prospect of generating desired returns. "Also, overly generous fiscal incentives are not enough to lure foreign direct investment, thus the need to consider more potent 'pull factor' such as a flexible labour market," she said.
PS Barry then pointed out that legislation that enhances labour market rigidity will undoubtedly scare away many potential investors looking for attractive destinations for their investment. "I, therefore, thank the management of GIEPA for recognising this and for championing the orgnisation of this review seminar," she concluded.
The chief executive officer of GIEPA, Fatou Mbenga-Jallow, also pointed out that, in order to build a healthy and sustainable industrial relationship, the relevant laws must not only be balanced, but also seen to be equitable.
This, she observed, is fundamental for not only business and investment promotion, but also for positive general employer-employee relations, including the public sector. "Today, we have most if not all the key stakeholders, including those directly involved in the application and execution of the Labour Act 2007, and related laws to share their perspectives," she remarked. Mbenga-Jallow also expressed optimism that the outcome of the seminar will come with concrete recommendations that would not only focus on international best practices, but the dynamics of their country. The GIEPA boss described the seminar as part of efforts to encourage more public-private interface, with a view to improving the business environment in the country.
The president of the Gambia Bar Association Loubna Farage, applauded the Ministry of Trade and GIEPA for opening their doors for the Bar Association, by committing them to express what she called their utmost sincerity to the views and concerns of clients, who are both employees and employers over the nation's current Labour relations.
"What we want from this seminar is in effect to road-map to pursue a change in the current labour law so that they give the Ministry of Trade a clear picture of our assessment of the fact affecting the conduct of industrial relations, both now and hopefully for the future," she indicated.
She further dilated on the preliminary assessment of their discussions on businesses and investments, noting that findings revealed the need to develop, expand and improve upon service delivery, dispute resolution and best practices information activities in the industry, so as to compete with the changing labour environment to attain the highest standard of service industry.