The International Labour Day, otherwise known as May Day, which is celebrated annually worldwide on the 1st May will fall on Thursday. This day should enable the workers from all sectors to raise their concerns and be heard. In the Gambia, the day is commemorated by holding sporting activities which bring together different institutions, companies and agencies on the day for competition.
This reporter conducted interviews on Tuesday, 29th April, 2014 with some unionists in the country on the significance of the day. When approached by this reporter, Mr. Ousman Drammeh, the President of the Gambia Transport, Agriculture, Food and Industrial Workers Union thanked the media for the support and the time they have for the day.
He pointed out that this day is ultimately set aside in the global calendar for workers all over the world. He stressed that the reason for this is because of the desire to fulfill the fundamental human rights of workers which he described as paramount.
He added that there are so many problems between the employers and employees in the Gambia such as salary issues, wrongful termination and non payment of employees' social security dues which he said has increased to unprecedented levels.
Mr. Drammeh further stated that he would only be satisfied with the way this day is celebrated in the Gambia if workers are given the air waves to express their various challenges.
He said this day should witness the assembling of all the trade unions to express the different interests of their members.
"If you go to other countries in the world, the way they celebrate May 1 and the way Gambia does it is totally different due to its sporting nature.
The day is celebrated here by employees from various places of work by converging for sporting events and this day is not meant for that; but for the workers to speak their minds," said Unionist Drammeh.
He explained that if you go to tribunals, there are numerous cases between the workers and employers and some of these cases drag on due to various reasons, and that some of them are even pending which is not really protecting the rights of the workers. According to him, these are the issues that workers should reflect on, talk about and be heard by the authorities on this day." He finally advised the drivers to join an association that will look into their issues regularly since there are too many problems before the industrial tribunal involving the drivers and vehicle owners. He said though they are part of the informal sector, they should organise themselves.
Mr. Pa Modou K.B. Faal, the Executive Secretary of the Gambia Workers Confederation (G.W.C) in Banjul explained that May Day is celebrated worldwide for the workers to be given an opportunity to express their concerns.
He said the day is also meant to remember those heroes, heroines who fought for the protection of the rights and welfare of workers. Mr. Faal added that workers should be independent and be in a position to form their own unions because the Labour Commission is a neutral body and cannot defend the interest of workers, but can only hear their grievances.
"Peace of mind is very important and the workers should defend their own interest and rights," he said. He totally disagreed for the day to be used for sport only when so many Gambian workers have issues to raise and be heard.
"This day is meant for the workers and not for sports," he emphasised. He also expressed dissatisfaction over the delay of cases before tribunals because of adjournment of cases.
He said the Gambia is a member of the International Labour Organisation (I.L.O) and that they have ratified a lot of conventions which are all geared towards promoting workers rights and other relevant issues.
In quoting U Thant, the former U.N Secretary General, as saying, "it is no larger our resources that limit our decisions but it is our decisions that limit our resources." He said there is no law of the market that compels a market economy to suffer from recession or periodic inflation, emphasising that as unions, they work indiscriminately. He said rights have no colour.
He called on the authorities to provide the platform with a view to hearing from the worker which is very important for this day.
The President of the Gambia National Transport Control Association (G.N.T.C.A) was contacted and he promised to give this reporter his version soon. Mr. Ebrima Garba Cham, Secretary General of Gambia Workers Union (G.W.U) also promised to give this reporter his version.
This reporter shall get back to them and accordingly report their views.