Dockworkers request for audience with executive After eight years impasse

Ousman Sillah

The members of the Gambia Dock and Maritime Workers’ Union, represented by their executive, are requesting for Gambia Dock and Maritimean audience with the president of the republic with a view to finding a lasting solution to the eight years long impasse and suffering they have been enduring without work and income.

These dockworkers said they want to convince the executive on the legitimacy of their demand to operate as independent stevedores in keeping with international standards.

For eighth years now, the union has been making numerous calls through official letters and media publications for 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 but without any positive response yet. Their services were terminated since 1 August 2007.

A delegation from the Union, comprising Mr. Amadou Touray, acting President, Pa Malick Touray, Secretary, Ngansumana Fadera, member, and Mr. Ousman Senghore, adviser, again visited the Foroyaa office early this week to renew their calls and to request for a meeting with the president to explain their case as well as plight.

“We believe that if we are to sit with the head of state and explain our case, he will certainly be convinced that we have legitimate claims,” said Mr. Touray, the acting President of the dock workers’ union.

The acting Dock and Maritime Workers’ Union President said their case is premised on the fact that the GPA cannot terminate their services, as it did, since it is not their employer. “The GPA was only mediating between us, the stevedores, and the agents of the vessels (cargo ships),” he said.

Mr. Touray is hopeful that sooner or later the truth will prevail and justice done in reinstating them to continue their work as independent dock and maritime workers.

“As long as we live, we will always keep our hopes alive and have the conviction that the executive will eventually influence GPA to allow us to continue with our work,” he said assuringly.

He, however, observed somberly that some of their colleagues who started this with them have died without seeing a positive result while others are now suffering from stress related illnesses and poverty induced physical disabilities.

These are all family heads who are now finding it very difficult to sustain their families after having been forced out of work for eight long years without any legitimate means of earning income.

Mr. Senghore, an adviser and member of the Union, said the dockworkers have not been given their dues for so long, when they play a crucial role in the economy and lives of people.

“Most of the imports into this country as well as exports have to pass through the ports and there is nothing in the ports that is not handled by the dockworkers. So you can see that we play a very crucial role, but yet disregarded,” noted Senghore.

He said the GPA has never paid their salaries, social security contributions, medical bills or compensate them for workplace injuries, adding that it is the cargo vessel that pays for their services after they have unloaded or discharged its cargo.

Both Secka and Fadera reiterated their demand for a quick resolution of the impasse to put a stop to their suffering and enable them to have the means to live in dignity.