By Kebba Secka
The Management of Gambia Ports Authority (GPA) and other stakeholders like Gambia Dock Workers Union on Monday August 23th gathered at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara’s International Conference Centre to validate a national roadmap for the establishment of a dock workers company.
The document when completed and implemented will make dock workers a subsidiary autonomous service provider.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Mod Ceesay, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transport, Works and Infrastructure, said the roadmap document is important because it will establish a subsidiary institution for dock workers just like the ferry service.
Ceesay said because of the importance of the roadmap, study tours were made in various places, including Ghana where consultation with a consultancy firm (Benom Consult) was done. He said the Ghanaian firm set up the company in Ghana which they intended for The Gambia.
Ceesay said after identifying the potential of the firm, it was ‘engaged and hired’ to assist the management of GPA on the development of a strategy to realize the purpose of establishing ‘dockworkers’ company’. He encouraged the participants to closely scrutinise the document which he described as ‘a vital service provider for them’. He also assured the workers of his ministry’s support in the formulation of a national roadmap establishing Dock Workers’ Company.
President of the dock workers union, Lamballa Saho, recollected similar convergences made in 2002, 2007 and 2008 for the formulation of the same roadmap, but without progress.
Saho anticipated this validation will be followed by a complete production of a roadmap for implementation, something which the consultant, Ben Owusu Mensah, assured will completed and implemented by January, 2022.
Saho also used the occasion to highlight stories of frustration of his union members in their partnership with the GPA, something he said marks the significance of a document that will make them an autonomous service provider company. He called for the implementation of the roadmap which will contain the terms of reference of their company for any partnership. He also emphasised the need to avoid ‘scenario of the dismissal of about two hundred and forty (240) dockworkers in 2017 by the GPA.’
Speaking further, Saho explained that following the dismissal, most of his union members died as a result of stress and frustration.
“Imagine, a man with family lost his job unlawfully and he was the breadwinner of his family,’ said the dock workers President as he emphasised the pains and sufferings in a service without a national roadmap.
The consultant, Mr Ben, said his firm was awarded the contract sometime in February, 2021 and hailed the cooperation of the Gambian authorities throughout the formulation process.
Ben described the document as ‘the end to the long sufferings of the dockworkers’ while mentioning some of the most significant elements of the document during his presentation. He said the document entails terms of condition, comprising the board of governors of the company, wages to be fixed by themselves amongst many other values.
The Ghanaian consultant assured that the document, when implemented, will for the first time in the history of the country ensure dock workers retire at the age of sixty with retirement benefits like civil servants. He said workers who would like to retire prematurely due to health, would also be awarded some benefits to rest or start a new life somewhere else and that the document also contains workers’ training continuity to be able to adapt to modern service demands.
The managing director of the Gambia Ports Authority, Ousman Jorbateh, said some of the problems with the dock labour scheme has to do with weaknesses that were not created deliberately, noting that his management had always attempted to address the issues.
Jobarteh reiterated that ‘human resources based is the most important aspect of the port services’, thus he encouraged the participants to effectively share their inputs during the validation as it enhances their services.
Responding to the dock workers’ president about the failed attempts to formulate a national roadmap for dock workers in 2007, 2008 and 2002, Jorbateh said the recommendations of those consultants gave birth to the document being validated. He implored them to take ownership of the document as it will increase job opportunities for them.