By Yankuba Jallow
Workers at the Basse-Wuli Bridge who had in January applied for permit at the Police to demonstrate what they described as poor working conditions, have re-echoed their desire to protest after they were sacked by Chinese contractors.
The dismissed labourers told Foroyaa that the Chinese contractors were using some agents of the police CID to threaten them. They said the involvement of the police in this case is not right because the matter was between them and their employers.
They said the contractors do not respect their rights as labourers and they do not in fact observe the labour laws of the country.
Essa Kanuteh said they have been demanding from the contractors to respect their rights, but their employers wouldn’t listen to them. He said when they persisted with their demands, the Chinese Company granted them audience and after the meeting, they agreed on some things which up to date have not been implemented by the contractors.
He said all those working at the Bridge do not have any employment contract which according to him is against the labour laws of the country. He added that the laws of The Gambia are such that employers must provide the employees with employment contracts.
Kanuteh explained that workers usually work from 7 am to 7 pm every day without any payment for overtime. He added that the contractors used to pay them D600 per day, but this lasted for a short time before it was reduced to D250. He added that the contractors later agreed to make Sundays as off-days for the labourers.
“We want security of tenure. People are sent away without anything and they go with nothing,” Kanuteh said.
Kanuteh maintained that the police have called him for questioning at the Basse Police Station which according to him was very wrong. He said their work is risky and they are not provided with risk allowance by their employers.
Ebrima Jawneh said the leader of the labourers at the Basse Bridge is a Malian who uses his discretion to dismiss people from work and replace them with others.
“They want to violate our rights, but they don’t want us to challenge them. This is not fair to us,” Jawneh said.
He added that the police do harass them.
Mr. Ming, one of the senior Chinese contractors told Foroyaa “We dismiss people if their job is not needed anymore and if they do a lot of mistakes.”
Ming explained: “The project is a Government project and the fault is not from us (the contractors). It is not a private project. It is a Government project. It is the government that should provide them with employment contracts and not us. This is what we were advised.”
Ming refused to comment further to questions by the reporter as he cut off the call. All attempts to get him back failed.
Foroyaa went to the Ministry of Works and Construction twice to speak to them, but they declined to comment on the matter. All efforts to speak with the Permanent Secretary couldn’t materialise. We will continue to engage the Ministry to hear from them.