By: Kebba AF Touray
The Minister for Petroleum and Energy, Abdoulie Jobe, said the new Labour Bill 2022, aims to promote decent work for all. Jobe said this when presenting the new Labour Bill before Gambia’s National Assembly Member.
Minister Jobe tabled the said Bill on behalf of the Trade Minister Baboucarr Joof, for lawmakers to scrutinise, consider and approve.
“The Labour Bill 2022 aims to provide for the administration, recruitment, hiring of labour and protection of wages, and the registration of employer organizations, trade unions and other matters connected therein,” he said.
“The Labour Bill 2022 further aims to promote and improve the working conditions, maintenance of better industrial relations, occupational safety and health at work and decent work for all,” he added. He narrated that over the years, The Gambia has experienced significant social development and changes, and the economic structure made a significant impact on the labour market and industrial relations as well as the Labour Act 2007.
That the Labour Act currently in force was adopted in 2007 and is being administered, with several gaps and loopholes identified, and said some out dated provisions of the Act no longer addresses the emerging challenges and problems in the labour market.
“With the increasing rate of unemployment, the labour market requires robust and dynamic legislation that will deal with these complexities in a more efficient and coherent manner,” he told the assembly. He further said that the transformation of labour relations within the enterprises does naturally challenge the enforceability of the current legislation and this he said calls for an in-depth reform and concerted efforts.
As such, he said the Trade Ministry initiated a revision process of the current Act in 2019 based on consultations with key stakeholders as well as recommendations from the International Labour Organization (ILO), Trade Unions and Employer Organizations.
He reported that subsequent to the hiring of a Consultant at the Trade Ministry, the following activities were carried out: a) questionnaires were distributed to key stakeholders to sound their opinions and seek their recommendations; b) focus group discussions were held with Trade Unions, Employer organizations and other key stakeholders, and c) one on one interviews were conducted with key partners, and institutions including persons with disabilities.
“The Labour Bill 2022 intends to correct the imbalance of power between the worker and the employer, and to prevent frequent industrial disputes and provide mechanism for settlement of disputes and to preserve the processes by which workers are recognised as ‘equal’ partners in negotiations about their working conditions etcetera,” Jobe said. He underscored that the Bill also regulates the labour market, by putting in place occupational Safety and Health standards, setting minimum limits on wages and setting standards on working hours, either nationally or in particular sectors or industries.
According to Jobe, this can be achieved through the Joint Industrial Councils, adding that the Labour Bill 2022 details out particulars required for the contract of employment.
“With the revitalisation of the Public Employment Services at the Department of Labour, the Department will promote employment creation, career guidance, and linking job seekers and employers, as such employers will be advised on the content of employment contracts,” he explained.
He remarked that the issue of maternity and paternity leaves is adequately dealt with in the Labour Bill 2022 and has been aligned with the Women’s Act 2010.
He further stated that the Expatriate Quota System (EQS) is incorporated in the Labour Bill 2022 given that there is no legal backing for its enforcement in the 2007 Labour Act, and that The EQS in the Labour Bill 2022 requires Expatriates to acquire clearance certificates issued by MOTIE with recommendation for approval from the EQS Board prior to being employed in The Gambia
He highlighted that another key section of the Labour Bill 2022 is the Industrial Tribunal, which has been decentralised, and the Tribunals are presided over by a Magistrate as the Chairperson and a panel of four members appointed by the Chief Justice, with recommendations from the Attorney General and Minister for Justice.
He dilated that other key areas in the Labour Bill 2022 include procedures and standards to promote collective bargaining, defining and prioritising the ‘employment relationship’ through the existence of a ‘contract of employment’
He added that it also includes the inclusion of provisions to regulate Employment Agencies; The Labour Bill 2022 has provisions of licensing Employment Agencies, recruitment of employees and revocation of licenses, saying “These licenses shall be granted by the Minister of Trade, through the Commissioner of Labour, improved reflection of international principles and processes related to the industrial action, and Inclusion of provisions for a regulation on domestic workers.”
He explained that the Bill also outlines defining and prohibiting harassment and sexual harassment and responsibilities of employers to prevent and address instances of sexual harassment in workplaces.
He said it also outlines inclusion of additional grounds for discrimination that better reflect the ILO Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) (Convention No. 111) definition of discrimination and exceptions.
The other key areas catapulted in the Bill are the Improved protection against discrimination of Gambian workers with HIV and AIDS, Incorporating the principle of equal remuneration for work of equal value, Better reflection of principles and international standards on the employment of children; and reduction of child labour, Inclusion of provisions for persons with disabilities to access training and explicit recognition of an individual right of a person with a disability to preferential treatment in decision-making processes during recruitment, and Inclusion of explicit provisions regulating the roles and responsibilities of labour inspectors.
“The Labour Bill 2022 further provides for the establishment of a Labour Advisory Board. The Board is responsible for advising the Hon. Minister of Trade on any matter concerning labour and industrial relations,” he told the assembly.
Minister Jobe stressed that given the nature of this Bill, a part of the consultative process was held in the form of a validation workshop with the stakeholders and social partners including Employers and Trade Union Organizations.
On legal implication, he stated that the introduction of the Labour Bill 2022 will require the repeal of the Labour Act 2007.
Furthermore, he noted that the Labour Bill 2022 is in conformity with all other relevant legislations and international instruments ratified by the Gambia in the eight ILO core Conventions.
“The Labour Bill 2022 will be executed as a recurrent cost to the Government of The Republic of The Gambia through annual budget allocations. Cost of coordinating the execution of this Bill will be budgeted for as part of the annual budget of the Ministry of Trade, Industry, Regional Integration and Employment,” he explained, regarding the financial implications of the bill.
That considering the above, he urged Members of the National Assembly enact the new Labour Bill 2022, in order to give effect to a new Act to replace the current one.