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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

May Day statement

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Fellow Gambians, tomorrow we will join millions of people across the world in commemoration of the International Labour Day commonly known as May Day, also called Workers’ Day. The day is commemorated as a reflection on the struggles and gains made by workers and the labour movement during the past year, while inviting focus on improving the working and conditions of the millions of workers that lubricate the wheels of the global economy. It is observed in many countries on May 1.

May Day is celebrated in over 80 countries across the world on May 1 including The Gambia to commemorate and celebrate the efforts and victories of the workers’ class and the labour movement because their sacrifices, their talent and skills, translate into the services that enable states deliver on their social contract with their populations.

The day is set aside to revisit and acknowledge the historic struggles and the subsequent gains that have shaped the ideas of social justice and basic rights in workplaces across the world.

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In addition to remembering the past, efforts are also made to empower the workers of today with the required knowledge of their rights and responsibilities.

It was an organisation of socialist and labour parties, that declared May 1 as the International Workers’ Day in 1889. May 1 was chosen as the date for International Worker’s Day to highlight the Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886. The Haymarket Riot, which was a violent confrontation between police and labour protesters, soon became a symbol of workers’ rights across the world. While the massacre itself occurred on May 4, the protest that led up to it – a peaceful rally in support of workers striking for an eight-hour workday – began on May 1.

The implications of May Day have changed drastically in the post-pandemic world. Explaining further, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) said “that in the post-pandemic world building back the labour community requires making deliberate and coherent policy choices.” This includes not only generating jobs but also providing decent working conditions for everybody, extending social protection, protecting workers’ rights and encouraging social dialogue.

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May Day is declared a public holiday in many different cultures around the world. It is a day put aside to celebrate   unity, togetherness, and rebirth; a day for everyone to come together and celebrate life as we know it!

Fellow Gambians, as we celebrate this year’s May-Day, let’s reflect on the sacrifices of our hard-working men and women across different professions of our society. From Nurses and Doctors, Teachers to Soldiers, Dockworkers to Pilots, Cleaners to lawyers and Judges, drivers to builders and mechanics, to name but a few. Without their daily sacrifices, we will not be where we are today. The workers of society in the public and private sector are brave men and women that are keeping our economy alive. Those in the health sector had worked so hard to save the society of the devastating effects of Covid-19 pandemic two years ago. In fact, some of them have given their own lives to safe us all and therefore as a society we owe them a debt of gratitude and on behalf of the Government under the dynamic leadership of His Excellency Adama Barrow, President of the Republic, I urge all of us to appreciate and thank them for their ultimate sacrifices.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Gambians

The theme for this year ‘s May-Day celebration is Safe and Healthy working environment. In a statement to mark World Day for safety and healthy working environment, the ILO Director General, Gilbert F Houngbo, outlined the critical importance of a safe and healthy working environment.  In his statement he reflects on the accident that happened in Bangladesh 10 years ago where eleven hundred workers died and thousands were injured when the Rana Plaza building collapsed.

The statement does not only remind us of what happened on that faithful day but also underscores the importance of safe and healthy working environments for our work force. As a government, we have an important responsibility to ensure that people go to work and return home alive, uninjured, and healthy. This obligation rests on all employers in the public as well as private sectors and by extension, even employers of domestic workers. 

To promote safe and healthy working environments, the ILO did not merely declare the   theme for this year’s international labour day celebration, but designated safe and healthy working environment as a fundamental principle and right at work. This is an important step towards this goal and we must celebrate this achievement together as it promotes social justice which is the only guarantee of social cohesion and a productive workforce.  

 With the ILO Resolution on the inclusion of a safe and healthy working environment, we are all obliged as Member States of ILO to respect, realize, and promote this principle as an important principle in the promotion of decent work and social justice for all. The Government of President Adama Barrow renews her commitment to upholding this principle and those before that uphold human dignity at work and urges stakeholders like Trades Unions to work with my Ministry to ensure improvements in the working conditions of all workers.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow Gambians,

At the home front, the Government of The Gambia through my Ministry have formulated Occupational Health and Safety Regulation to promote safe and healthy working environment in the country. The Department of Labour as the administrator of the labour Act 2007 and this Regulation has already incorporated it in its labour inspection programme.

Furthermore, the Government of the Gambia having recognised the shortcomings of the 2007 Labour Act, have carried out an extensive and inclusive consultation in a bid to review the said Labour Act. The new draft Labour Bill which is at the level of National Assembly, has carefully outlined the importance of safe and healthy working environment with the aim of promoting decent work and social justice for all. We are expecting the Bill to become law sometime in June/July this year.

In the same context, the Ministry is also reviewing the Injury Compensation Act in order to bring it up to speed with new developments in the world of work. This is an important piece of legislation that caters for our workers who may be injured at work. Accidents may occur at work places and those affected must be taken care of despite their new circumstances.  We expect the review process to be completed before the end of the year and necessary measures put in place to trigger legislative corrections.

In addition, government recently enacted into law National Health Insurance Scheme to increase access to health care as a step towards achieving universal health coverage. This will help our workforce to improve their access to health care not only during their active service life but also when they retired from active service. This is an important step in promoting safe and healthy life of our citizenry.

My Ministry has also drafted a Trade Union Bill aimed at reorganizing our trade unions to improve their participation in the economy. This is to ensure equal participation in labour matters as well as ensure that rights and obligations of the union members are respected by all. The draft Bill is currently at the level of the Cabinet for consideration.

Furthermore, another critical area for government is the setting up of the minimum wages to promote the welfare of workers. This legislation would ensure that workers in different professions are well renumerated for their hard work. A decent wage is critically important in promoting decent working environment as well as safeguarding social justice. With decent wages, workers will have decent retirement life. This effort would be reenforced by the new pension act designed to improve the pension package of the civil servants.

It could also be said that the government is giving skills development the requisite attention in order to reduce the skills deficit across board through the Ministry of Higher Education.

All these efforts by the government demonstrate government’s resolve to creating a safe, healthy and decent working environment for all. We will continue to value our hard-working men and women as they remain a critical pillar of our economy. No economy can flourish without a hardworking and productive workforce.

Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, Fellow Gambians,

Before I conclude, I want to take this opportunity once again to congratulate all our workers for your hard work and sacrifice that keeps our society together. We must continue to work together to develop our country. It is a sacred duty that must be upheld by all.  As a government we will continue to deliver on our responsibility by creating a safe, Healthy and decent working environment capable of delivering social justice for all. We shall not be complacent despite our achievements but rather do more to address the gaps as the workplace continues to evolve and becoming more complex given the new methods of execution including virtual work stations and the proliferation of Artifical Intelligence. 

In conclusion, I am inviting all of you to join us at the MaCcarthy Square in Banjul in commemoration of the May-Day on the 1st of May. There will be a match pass, and speeches in the morning while in the afternoon series of sport events will take place.

Thank you and hope to see you all.

Babucarr Joof Minister of Public Service, Administrative Reform, Policy Coordination and Delivery.

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