The leader of Gambia trade unions, Ebrima Garba Charm, has deplored what he described as the ‘unacceptable conditions’ of workers as the people of the small nation celebrated Workers’ Day.
Gambia, smallest nation in mainland Africa that has recently ousted a dictator, Yahya Jammeh who left a trail of economic disaster, has a budget of about US$1 billion but its public sector debt has surpassed that by 15%.
Despite higher income poverty at 48% and youth unemployment at 38%, the country also struggles with underemployment and low wages, where government’s minimum pay is kept at D30.9 a day which is less than $1.
“The Gambia National Trade Union Congress is alive to the poor working conditions, exploitation of employees, unlawful and or unfair terminations, irregular employment contracts, unpaid claims as a result of industrial accidents, unreported cases to the Injuries Compensation Commissioner, redundancies without payment, unremitted social security contributions,” Cham said.
“We sincerely deplore these unacceptable conditions and plans are at advanced stages to deal with these issues. It is our individual and collective responsibility to make The Gambia a better place to live and work.”
Gambia’s government has been urged to urgently consider increasing salaries and transport allowances of workers across the country, including the civil service, parastatals and the private sector to commensurate with economic realities of the consumer price index.
Workers Day, also known as Labour Day in some countries, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the international labor movement.
In The Gambia, it is celebrated as a sporting event where workers and employers converged to have fun and institutions compete in different sports at country’s stadium in Bakau.
While addressing the event marking the day in Gambia, country’s trade and employment minister, Isatou Touray, said the government is committed to improving conditions of workers in the small nation.
“The government is currently discussing a minimum wage that will respond to the needs of workers… The government will tackle anything that constraints the providers of labor… as they are the bedrock of its very existence,” Touray said.
Dr. Touray said the government is reviewing the country’s labor act to address the emerging issues and ensure an investor-friendly environment.
However, the sporting event marking the Workers Day was not without criticisms.
Social media critics of the Adama Barrow administration said celebrating the event, which is supposed to be about the plights of Gambian workers as a sports event is wrong.