By Aisha Tamba
The management of Gambia Ports Authority on Monday began a two-day validation workshop on the roadmap for the establishment of a subsidiary dock labour company.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Ousman Jobarteh, managing director of Gambia Ports Authority, said the main objective of the new dispensation is to address the problems associated with the management of the erstwhile Dock Labour Scheme under the Department of Labour in terms of its inherent weaknesses and the adoption of a more flexible alternative system under the GPA.
He explained that the tenure of dockworkers under the GPA management ensued from the Labour (Amendment) Act, 2004 and subsequent Government Directives in May 2007, which authorized the transfer of Dockworkers to the GPA.
“The Dock Labour Scheme, which came about as a result of a Labour ordinance in 1963, did not mention any retirement age for Dockworkers, hence the notion of dockworkers presumably having jobs-for-life”.
He further emphasised that the overall aim of the reform process is guided by the fact that the port industry is often subjected to strong competitive pressures in an era of increased globalization and deregulation of the commercial environment. “In reaction to these pressures, the GPA is obliged to adopt strategies aimed at guaranteeing the provision of reliable and cost-effective services to meet customer satisfaction as well as to address workers concerns for improved working conditions and welfare.”
These range from lack of entry and exit formalities, inflexible recruitment and deployment, which the cargo handling the subsidiary will address in the interest of all stakeholders.
Lang Balla Sawo, president of the Gambia Maritime Dockworkers Union called for the immediate retirement of dockworkers who are above 60 and be paid a substantial amount of money.
He said the validation and implementation of the roadmap has been seen by dockworkers as long overdue. “This workshop cannot come at a better time; we are here today with the hope that there would be an end to manmade suffering inflicting upon dockworkers.
He reminded the gathering that there is no doubt that dockworkers in The Gambia contribute immensely toward the socio-economic development of the country “but with all that, dockworkers encounter all kinds of problems including employment rights, important benefits, health insurance, social security pension scheme and risk allowance to name a few.”