Dear editor,

International Labor day is a day of celebration/remembrance of the terrific Haymaket massacre and flawed prosecution and unlawful execution of Labor unionist for their labor activities in the 1880s in Chicago, USA.
May Day is celebrated in the first day of May every year. It creates an opportunity for the working class especially the most vulnerable and most exploited to demand improvement of slave-like working environments and conditions, labor protection, minimum wages, job security among other terrible things workers are faced with both in the public and private sectors.

However, the Gambian Model of May day celebration is characterized by organisation of sports activities among the so-called elite institutions in the Independent Stadium in Bakau where not only disregarded resolutions are passed by the Labor Union and unrealistic prophesies and promises are made by the political leaderships of the Gambia, but also display of fashion as to which institution wear the best sport gears. The monies wasted in this Fashion-like May day celebration could have been use to improve the dire working conditions of workers back in their offices.

The workers in the informal sectors and other private sectors who are financial constrained to join the celebration in term of financial commitments and purchase of needed sporting gears, miss the opportunity to participate in the celebration; an opportunity to air out their demands.

This model dose not in my humble opinion reflects the original spirit of the Labor Day and needs to be change or transformed. The participation for the May Day celebration should be free and widely open to all workers in both the public and private; formal and the informal sectors to make sure no worker regardless of status is left behind.
The day should be marked by peaceful demonstrations by all workers to highlight the dire struggles of the working class especially the vulnerable and the most exploited and call for not only review and proper implementation of labor law, but also punish institutions that fails to adhere to the labor act provisions. This should be followed by a symposium in the Stadium to sensitize workers on their rights and entitlements as employees and labor laws to reduce alarming exploitations in work places as a results of ignorant of the labor laws on the side of workers or employees or negligence of responsibility on the side of the employers.

Finally, I call on the Government and the labor Union to harmoniously work together to make sure:
1. Minimum wage is passed
2. Child labor is not only banned, but ensure effective implementation of the ban
3. Workers ‘ civil rights are promoted; especially the right to protest without police permit
4. Slave- like working condition in work place is improved and make work places friendly for differently abled individuals
5. All workers have job security
6. Appointments without issuance of employment letters are illegal and employers affected be penalized; and
7. Ensure employers especially in the formal sector provide medical insurance for their employees.
Happy International labor day to all Worker around the globe especially the most exploited and most venerable groups.

 

Sanna Badjie,
Kombo Kerewan

On workers’ day

Dear editor,

There seems to be some confusion in the Gambia about the celebration of Workers Day.I think we are narrowing and forcussing more on the sports than on commemorating the day. In the Gambia the day starts with a march pass of workers from the Bakau Police Station to the Stadium where all the ministers, heads of departments, national assembly members and the press are invited. The Secretary General of the Trade Union on behalf of all the workers makes a statement and presents the workers’ resolutions to the Minister of Trade. The Minister in receiving the resolutions states what Government did with the concerns of workers based on the resolutions presented the year earlier and consultations with the Unions that followed. That is followed by a tete-a-tete with the Minister before a break is taken for the sports to start. These arrangements were worked out with the Unions when the sports was introduced in 1991. In 1991 and 1992 there was a symposium at the Atlantic Hotel on the eve of May Day where the resolutions to be presented to the Minister were read. This is more than what is done in many other countries in the world where the day is celebrated with demonstrations and confrontations with the Police and in some cases people have lost their lives.

George Gomez