by Ousman Sillah
As the Gambia and the rest of the world prepare to commemorate workers’ day tomorrow, the leadership of the Gambia Dock and Maritime Workers’ Union is again renewing its appeal for the intervention of the executive to allow them to continue to operate as independent stevedores in keeping with standard international practice.
This is the eighth year that the union is calling on the authorities to prevail on the management of the Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) to rescind the decision of terminating the services of their members as dock workers without any positive response.
Visiting the Foroyaa office early this week, a delegation from the Union comprising Mr. Amadou Touray, acting President, Pa Malick Touray, Secretary, Ngansumana Fadera, member, and Mr. Ousman Senghore, adviser, requested for an interview in order to once again convey their plight to the authorities for having been forced to sit down without work for more than seven years now after their services were unceremoniously terminated.
Speaking on behalf of their colleagues, they explained how it has been very difficult for them, as family heads during this long period, to survive without any means of earning an income and the need for the executive to intervene as a matter of urgency in the spirit of addressing their legitimate rights and putting an end to their suffering.
Mr. Touray, the acting President, said they want to have an audience with the executive to explain why they should be reinstated and how the termination of their services over the period has brought untold suffering for its members.
“Some of our members who have been in this with us demanding for our reinstatement have died without ever realising their legitimate desire while others are suffering from physical disabilities without having the means for medical treatment,” said Mr. Touray.
The acting Dock and Maritime Workers’ Union President said since the termination of their services as independent dockworkers on the 1 August 2007, they have been challenging the decision and demanding for a reversal as they have never been employed by GPA. “The GPA was only mediating between us, the stevedores, and the agents of the vessels (cargo ships),” he said.
Buttressing the point, Mr. Senghore, an adviser and member of the Union, said the GPA has never paid their salaries, social security contributions, medical bills or compensate them for workplace injuries. He added that it is the cargo vessels that pay for their services after the unloading or discharging of their cargo.
“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 services of some of us and absorbed others without any legitimate cause,” said Mr. Senghore.
For his part, Fadera called on the authorities to be sensitive to their plight and act accordingly to redress the situation.
Mr. Secka reminded that the Union has been writing letters to the management and other concerned authorities as well making appeals through the media but is yet to receive any positive response for an audience to table their case with a view to resolving it.
As the workers are commemorating May Day, the members of the Gambia Dock and Maritime Workers Union are calling on the Gambian authorities to consider their plight and address their legitimate demand.
They reminded that as they continue to struggle for their right to work and earn income in order to cope with the hardships, some of their colleagues have passed away, while others are grappling with poverty induced illnesses and physical disabilities.
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.
The Union leadership calls 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 concerned authorities.
The Union leadership concluded by renewing its request to meet with the executive to put an end to their endless plight.