By Nelson Manneh
As 1 May is celebrated every year, the world over, as ‘Workers Day’, the workers in both the public and private sectors in the Gambia also joined in the commemoration to observe it with activities held on Sunday at the Independence Stadium in Bakau.
According to the organisers, the theme for this year is “Employment creation for self-help and employment”.
This year’s celebration, as usual, started with a match pass procession led by the army band and followed by the respective participating institutions and culminating in speeches by labour representatives and government officials and a sporting event.
Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Ebrima Garba Cham, the Secretary General of the Gambia Workers Union, congratulated the participants and all those who have contributed immensely towards the socio-economic development of the country.
Mr. Garba Cham said May-Day celebrations are not only for festivities but also an occasion that provides them with the opportunity for sober reflection and renewal of their adherence to the principles upon which the international labour related accords and protocols are premised. He said this is also an occasion to take stock of the conditions which the producers of the nation’s wealth have to endure vis-à-vis upholding and promoting the principles of justice, equal remuneration for work of equal value, safe and healthy work condition.
“The day also provides the occasion for all of you to renew your commitment and dedication to productive engagement in dignity for all in an atmosphere of peace and harmony,” said the labour union leader.
Mr. Cham noted that the conducive work environment goes beyond the demands for adequate remuneration and ideal working conditions and requires unity of purpose among workers and between workers and employers in the protection and promotion of their interests.
In this direction, said the Gambia Workers’ Union Secretary General, employers can be engaged in collective bargaining in the realisation of fringe benefits and better terms and conditions of employment.
“I therefore call on all of you to inculcate the spirit of industrial peace and harmony and to renew and reaffirm your commitment to the fundamental principles upon which this celebration is premised. It is our individual and collective responsibility to develop the Gambia into a city state. It is only in productive, peaceful and stable environment that you would realize your potentials to the fullest. In this regard, the workers, the employer and the government have a role to play in the realisation of these objectives,” Mr. Garba Cham.
Mr. Cham said the Gambia National Trade Union Congress (GNTUC) wishes to present some resolutions to the Government through the Minister of Trade, Regional Integrity and Employment for consideration and possible implementation. H e said the trade unions are urging the Government through the ministry of finance and economic affairs to, among other things, establish small and medium entreprises (SMEs) in order to encourage skilled workers to create small industries that will motivate interested persons to invest in science and technology, infrastructure development and the promotion of indigenous businesses.
Speaking on behalf of the minister of trade, industry, regional integration and employment, Mr. Lamin Dampha, Director of Industry, said the International Labour Organisation (ILO) since 1919 has been at the forefront in the pursuit of universal poverty reduction, social justice and equal opportunity through social dialogue and strong tripartism. He said the Government of the Gambia, on its part, through the ministry of trade, industry, regional integration and employment espoused the creation of and access to economic opportunities as an inalienable human right to all those who seek to use their labour for productive and decent work in conditions of dignity, security and equity.
The employment minister said employers must also play their part in search of good labour relation. “They must understand that workers, being an integral part of their production, need recognition, respect, and opportunities for career development. Accordingly, employers should make themselves readily available to workers for consultation, negotiation, and discussion of mutually beneficial matters. They should ensure that workers are commensurately rewarded for their efforts and are always assured of a healthy and safe work environment,” he said.