By Nelson Manneh & Makutu Manneh
The President of the Gambia Transport Union (GTU), Omar Ceesay, has informed all commercial drivers under his-led union to hold a sit-down strike on 13th September 2021 if the government does not fulfill their demands.
The union in a press conference on Tuesday 17th August 2021 held at its main office in Banjul made these remarks and also expressed disappointment towards the government.
The Union’s demands include Car Parks for commercial vehicles, to increase transportation fares of commercial vehicles, to reduce fees commercial drivers pay at the Senegambia Bridge, for authorities in Senegal to respect the ECOWAS protocols, to regulate the border crises between Gambia and Senegal and to regulate the system at the Gambia Ports Authority.
Mr. Ceesay said in March 2021 his union went for a nationwide tour to look at the general transport system and they came up with several recommendations that they presented to the authorities.
“These recommendations include our demands that we want the government to fulfill before the 13th September 2021 otherwise we will hold a sit-down strike until they fulfill them,” he said.
The Gambia Transport Union said they want the government to establish car parks all over the country. They said they have identified strategic locations that can be used as car packs all over the country, but the government is not cooperating.
The union also demanded for the government to increase the fare tariffs across the country to at least 25-30%. They said the fare tariffs do not match with the current economy of the country, saying the basic commodities continue to increase daily, but fares remain the same since 2013.
GTU said they want the government to engage the authorities in Senegal for them to respect the ECOWAS protocols and also regulate the border crises between Gambia and Senegal.
“Over the years our drivers are not treated well in Senegal and our authorities are not doing anything to put an end to it, we want the government to engage them and make sure that our drivers are treated the way their drivers are treated here,” he said.
The union also said Gambian drivers are treated badly at the Gambia Ports Authority as if the port does not belong to them. Therefore, the union said they are demanding for the government to make sure that there is fair play among all drivers at the ports.
“Foreign drivers are considered at the ports more than our own Gambian drivers. We want the government to put an end to it and treat us equally. The port belongs to us; therefore, foreign drivers ‘cannot overcome’ us in our ports,” the union said.
The transport union on their last demand called on the government to reduce the fees commercial vehicles pay when crossing the Senegambia Bridge. Drivers said they are paying almost D400 per vehicle which is very expensive.
“Our drivers cannot continue to pay that amount of money, we want the government to consider that,” the union said.
The GTU boss said the government is not helping them to regulate the transport system in the country.
“All the challenges we are going through are caused by the government because they are not helping us to regulate the system,” the union said.
Ceesay said after their nationwide tour, they presented their report and demands to the President of The Gambia and to both the Ministry of Trade and Ministry of Lands, but since then, their demands have not been resolved.
“When COVID-19 hit The Gambia the government considered all sectors except the transport sector. We were asked to reduce our number of passengers and we did so but still they don’t want to cooperate with us,” he said.
Mr. Ceesay said his union is disappointed with the government because they are never considered.