Friday, May 10, 2013

Gambian workers call for 120% salary increment

By Lamin Jahateh

Ebrima Garba Cham SG of Gambia Trade Union
The central government and its parastatals, as well as the private sector operators, have been urged to consider increasing salaries by 120% across the board to commensurate with the economic realities of the country.
This is one of the nine-point resolutions of trade unions on behalf of workers in the country as read by the secretary general of The Gambia National Trade Union Congress, Ebrima Garba Cham, on Wednesday during the Workers’ Day commemoration held at the July 22nd Square in Banjul. 

May 1st is commemorated worldwide as Workers’ Day also known as May Day.
Mr Cham said the salary increment demand is necessitated by the fact that the cost of goods and services in the country continues to increase and people’s, particularly workers’, earning power continues to decrease.

Majority of Gambians – including workers in both the public and the private sector - are finding it very difficult to keep their heads above water as the prices of basic food commodities continue to skyrocket. 
This is coupled with the fact that the dalasi continues to lose its value whilst workers’ purchasing power remains stagnant and/or even reducing. 

The Integrated Household Survey in the country has it that more than 40% of those who are employed live below the poverty line of $1.25 per day. 
Many workers in the country do not earn enough to pull themselves and their families out of poverty.

Many Gambian workers do not earn more than D24,000 annually, which is D2,000 per month.  A bag of rice is costing about D1,000 and daily fish money of at least D50, which is the lowest someone can go with to the market as prices of cooking condiments also continue to hike. 

“We are concerned that commodities in the business sector are constantly on the increase but wages for the workers have been stagnant and or not commensurate with the status quo in the country,” Mr Garba Cham said.

He pointed out that the salary and cost of living mismatch in the country is certainly not helping the government’s drive to reduce poverty.  And under these circumstances, it will be difficult to achieve the lofty goals of the national development blueprint, the Programme for Accelerated Growth and Employment, and the Millennium Development Goals.
A billion dollar grant for manufacturing industry

The Ministry of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, should jointly establish a billion Dollar grant to boost manufacturing for skilled Gambian youths, said Mr Cham as part of the Worker’s Day resolutions.
The workers’ union urged the Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment to strengthen the administrative structure of the Department of Labour with trained qualified personnel.  This is necessary for the proper functioning of the department.

Also, the Trade Minister is urged to institute a policy that all establishments create a Human Resource Department and a competent officer to ensure that labour laws, principles and practices are enforced and adhered to.  This is expected to arrest the rampant occurrence of disputes between workers and employers.
The Ministry of Trade and Employment, in collaboration with the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs, should include workers’ representative into the Social Security board of directors with a view to representing the interest of Gambian workers, Garba Cham said.

The workers union secretary general raised eyebrow about the number of expatriates in the country recommending that the Ministry of Trade and Employment, in collaboration with the Finance Ministry, should review the caliber of expatriates. 
This should be done in view of the fact that “a number of so-called expatriates are being trained on the job by the Gambian counterparts”.

A public employment service should be established by the Ministry of Trade and Employment to support the labour market transitions for workers and enterprises. 

The public employment service will be providing relevant information about the labour market; providing job search assistance and placement services, and administering unemployment insurance benefits and administering a variety of labour market programmes.
Introduction of taxes on tailors

The Ministry of Local Governments is urged to introduce taxes on tailors like any other business and not only on machine heads to generate the much needed revenue for Local Government institutions.
The workers are also demanding that special consideration be given to workers within the informal sector as they form the largest work population and have a tremendous stake in the socio-economic development of the country.

It is also recommended that the Ministry of Agriculture should introduce and encourage community farming in the crusade to self-reliance and self-determination for food self-sufficiency and security.
The workers union extends “sincere gratitude” to the Hon. Minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment “for his dedication and commitment” towards the welfare of Gambian workers.

According to Mr Garba Chama, it is individual and collective moral responsibility of all to make The Gambia a better place to live and work. 
In this regard, the worker, the employer and the government all have a pivotal role for play in the realization of common objectives. 

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