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Friday, February 1, 2013

THE GAMBIA: TWIST IN WORKWEEK CUT


President Jammeh is bestowed with a wide-range of executive powers - from hiring and firing to changing the nomenclature of institutions or workdays and hours/Photo: Wikipedia

 Front Page International (FPI) - After a low key public debate in the print media and the social media mainly against the presidential workweek-cut and work-hour rise in The Gambia, the executive have partly rescinded on the idea.

Locals believe the decision by President Yahya Jammeh to cut working days from five to four (Monday to Thursday) and increased working hours per day from eight to ten (8am-6pm) last week was done without “properly” looking into its impact on workers.

The new presidential order announced on Jan. 18 is set to take effect from February 1, 2013, but another presidential directive of Jan. 30 says the private sector and businesses can work on Fridays.

The new order also allows certain public agencies like Gambia Revenue Authority and Gambia Ports Authority and the security services. Hospitals are also included though they have “generally” expected to operate with or without a workweek cut or public holiday.

But Wednesday’s directive says all permanent secretaries and heads of departments should stringently adhere to the new working arrangements.  
It urges heads of departments to reinforce the staff attendance register and regularly monitor lateness and absenteeism in line with Public Service Commission and the General Orders.

Halt

The secretary general of The Gambia Workers Confederation Pa Modou K.B. Faal has asked President Jammeh to “halt” his impromptu executive order tocut the workweek.

Mr Faal calls for a decent work country programme and requested the government to dialogue with its partners on the workweek-cut.

Many Gambians found the new work schedule to be “strange” but the Office of President Jammeh said the decision is meant to set Friday - a rest, worship and farming day for Gambians.

The presidency argued the new work system will allow Muslims to worship Allah (God) and give people “more time” to partake in agricultural work – citing President Jammeh’s “back to the land call” for Gambians to “grow what you eat and eat what you grow”.

Divisions of The Gambia
Regions of The Gambia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Twist

Banks and Foreign Exchange Bureaus in the West African country, the smallest in mainland Africa, operate six days a week, from Monday to Saturday.

Had there not been a twist on the new official work schedule, financial businesses and people were most likely to be affected because the changes mean their business days will be cut to five.

“The country will be shutting down for a whole day while most parts of the world continue in active business and financial transactions,” business and financial journalist Lamin Jahateh observed. 

Earlier the Office of the President said banks can operate on Saturdays to compensate for the lost Fridays, but if not for the revision, the fact is that they will still be deprived of one work-day. 

Room for party

But some locals have already added good reasons, at least to them, in welcoming this latest development.

The week ends Thursday, so we have from Friday to Sunday to train and play friendly matches in preparation for the upcoming qualifiers for the “Nawettan” (non-league soccer championship), says Lamin Sonko, who claims to be Argentine prodigy Lionel Messi.

“If it is for prayer and farming, that is good,” said Ismaila Manneh. “I am afraid people (civil servants) could become work-shy knowing they have three days off instead of the usual Saturday and Sunday.
I hope it will not create more room for partying – people need to work harder because things are getting tough in this country, he said.

But one street hustler who is unmoved by the workweek-cut and work hour-rise is Momodou Barry.

“I work every day and will continue to work every day, holiday or no holiday,” he said. “Even if the official working days are reduced, am not working for the government.”

Unemployment records are high in the poor country currently engaged in a dialogue stalemate with the European Union over human rights and governance.   
The executive has a history of introducing new “unworkable” regulations only to rescind later.


In the past, a change on the portfolios of the Cabinet Members from “Ministers” to “Secretary of State” was also rescinded.


Written by Modou S. Joof

 
 
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