Gambia: Parliamentarians question Labour Department’s responsibilities

By Gambian Correspondent – Deputies at the National Assembly Wednesday raised eyebrows on the responsibilities of the Department of Labour under the auspices of the Ministry of Trade, Employment and Regional Integration.

In a short but heated debate, the country’s lawmakers unanimously condemned the department for not honouring its’ obligations as mandated by law. This, according to the NAMs, is justified by the fact that there are numerous complaints from workers especially in the hotel industries and banks who are often being dismissed or deprived of their basic entitlements, yet the department takes no concrete action to address the plight of such workers. This unfortunate situation left lawmakers with no option but to invite the department to the National Assembly to clarify their stance on such complaints.

Hon. Sheriff Abba Sanyang, NAM for Foni Kansala said The Gambia will not accept any form of slavery anymore and people must understand that there is no slavery anymore in the world. “We have received cases of desperate and helpless people in the society, but up till now, we can’t know what the labour department is doing and we cannot and will never go back into slavery. So anybody or any institution in this country either private banks or other organisations that will employ Gambians and treat them as slaves can never and would never be tolerated,” he vowed.

He asserted that the Labour Department has been so dormant that, when he personally tried to locate them for the past two years, he could not even see the office; he also did not know the Labour commissioner. “There is a labour law and this needs to be reinforced. There are people deprived from their rights and they need to be salvaged through this labour office but where are they?” he queried.

Also condemning such practices, Hon. Sellu Bah, NAM for Basse, said: “We must endeavour to help the Gambia Tourism Authority and the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. Most of these complaints are [from] workers in the hotel industry. The Labour Department must be seen protecting and defending the interests and plight of our Gambian brothers and sisters. We have seen hotels randomly dismissing our people [with] nobody there to talk about it. Where is the labour department, what are they doing?”

Hon. Bah described such as institutional slavery, which he strongly condemned. He hailed the efforts f the National Assembly Joint Select Committee on Tourism for ensuring that the issue of the plight of workers reached the parliament.  “It is very painful we are serving to protect our people. We will call all institutions that are not doing good in terms of their staff, if possible, to answer questions before the house,” he said.

Hon. Bah concluded by suggesting that the National Assembly should invite all the stakeholders in the tourism industry, discuss with them and chart a way forward to address the problem of workers’ dismissal on no grounds. Hon. Babanding KK Daffeh, NAM for Kiang Central and Mama Kandeh, NAM for Jimara Constituency all supported the house’s decision to invite the Labour Department as a way of addressing the problems of workers.