Thousands of workers drawn from more than 60 public and private institutions on Thursday converged at the July 22nd Square in Banjul, to join the rest of the world in celebrating International Workers' Day, widely known in The Gambia as May Day. The theme for this year's celebration is 'Tackling Employment Challenges through Social dialogue'. The day is meant to honour workers across the globe, as well as trade unionists that fought for social and economic rights of workers over the past years. In The Gambia, the day is always celebrated in grand style, where workers come together to converge, have fun and engage in sports competitions, a scenario indicating the peaceful co-existence between workers, employers and the government of the day. The 24th edition, which was organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, through the National Sports Council for the first time was preceded with a march-past, led by the Gambia Armed Forces, starting from the Ministry of Trade in Banjul to the venue where speeches were delivered.
Addressing multitude of workers, the minister of Youth and Sports, Alieu Kebba Jammeh, said the event has become a true national event. He then pledged that next year, they will propose to give it a more national character, where all the regions will be invited to take part in or perhaps, decentralise the concept to the regions. "Recognising what is displayed here today, I have no doubt that the event can become a permanent programme under the Sports Council. At this junction, it is very fitting to pay special tribute to all individuals and institutions that have coalesced efforts, resources and their energies to make what May Day Sports has become," he stated.
According to the sports minister, the theme for the edition was very important in their drive to promote mass participation in sports. He opined that sports and physical activity have proven to be critical contributors to improving performance at work places, adding that May Day is dedicated to workers to catalogue their individual and collective achievements and challenges to the government and employers.
The Day, in The Gambia, Minister Jammeh said accords workers the opportunity to cement the gains in worker-employer relations; government-private sector relations; and most importantly, promote mass participation in sports. "Let me therefore convey our special thanks and profound gratitude to the chief patron of our national sports, the president of the republic for continuously creating the conducive environment which we are all enjoying and for the continued support and blessing to successfully organise the 2014 May Day Sports celebration."
For his part, Ebrima Garba Cham, secretary-general of the Gambia Workers' Union, said "May Day is a time for renewal and reaffirmation of our adherence to the principles enshrined in the international accords and protocols, signed purposely to focus attention on the plight and welfare of workers throughout the world."
"We must remain vigilant in guarding against the re-occurrence of poor and unacceptable work conditions. We must also strive to improve upon our gains, and seek a more holistic pattern of development that attaches priority to worker welfare, dignity and respect in promoting fundamental rights and freedom at the work place."
According to him, the day provides the occasion for all workers to renew their dedication to productive engagement, in conditions of justice and dignity for all; and in an atmosphere of peace and harmony.
"We at the union headquarters are in constant dialogue with the government of The Gambia, the ILO [International Labour Organisation] and other stakeholders. They are all concerned and committed to ensuring that better living conditions and decent work standards for workers and their families is maintained. It is against this backdrop that the 'decent work country programme' is embarked upon to create jobs and to promote opportunities for Gambians to engage in dignified productive work. All hands are on deck, and we are all poised to see that the rights and privileges of workers are jealously guarded in this country."