Business and economic activity in markets of the Greater Banjul Area and the Western region was slow this Monday. Not because the announced sit-down strike by Gambia Market Union was a success, but due the protagonists’ lack of clarity in communication regarding the outcome of talks between the government and the unionists over the weekend.
The Union announced the closure of the markets in the country today as a result of a sit-down strike to demand that the government returns to full operation hours in the markets. On Sunday, the government spokesperson’s office issued a vague statement stating that the administration has held a ‘fruitful’ discussion with the Market Union.
The statement did not indicate what outcomes sealed the said discussions between the government and the market trade unionists leaving both sellers and buyers in a state of limbo. The cloud surrounding the way forward was thickened by Union’s ineffective communication to their members as regards the outcomes. The majority not knowing that the proposed strike has been called-off.
“Before I knew that it was called off, time had gone. I only learned of the cancellation around midday. So, I rushed to my stall in Serekunda market. But as you know, by 2pm, I will have to close. So, it’s obvious that I won’t make good business today,” Muhammed Sailu Jallow, a meat seller in Serekunda market said.
Saikou Sumareh, a canteen-keeper selling sells cooking oil, legumes and other food items was equally ill-informed about the outcome of the meeting between the Union and the government. He therefore had to sit at his shop for two hours before opening. “I came here around 6am but I could only open my canteen until 8am because I couldn’t see anyone and I did not know whether I should open. I only opened when I realized that other canteens were opening. The market eventually takes place today but many people couldn’t come. Today’s market is really disastrous because the products I sell cannot do well when fish is not available”, Sumareh explained.
In Brikama, Fanta Suso only arrived in the market lately because she knew nothing of the information. According to her, she only decided to come to the market because she couldn’t continue the sit down strike to sustain the household financial pressure. “I was at home but I decided that I should come because this is our only means of survival. We don’t have a choice,” she tells The Chronicle.
Fanta claims to be the main provider of home basic needs including feeding as her husband is not currently employed. “We are here to get at least the fish money. But in terms of business, damage has already been done because the market is virtually empty of buyers. I have up to nine children who are all relying on this business.”
Sira Touray was aware of the strike but she knew nothing about its annulling it. This made no difference to her as she said she was not interested in the strike because she couldn’t afford to miss both Sunday and Monday without making sales. “I am not part of the protest. But in whatever case, the day has been spoilt already because there is no business today. I am responsible for a whole family because I am a widow. I am the one feeding my family with my six children. I bear their academic expenses with the support of my brother sometimes,” she tells The Chronicle.
Women who go for daily shopping (nduga) have faced a tough situation on what to buy to cook for the family due to shortage of condiments. “I couldn’t get all the condiments that I wanted to buy and prepare lunch because many sellers did not turn up. I needed to buy smoked bonga fish and paper but they are unavailable in the market. I still have to struggle to get them because I need them to cook,” Awa Barry, in the Brikama market, tells The Chronicle.
A fish-seller, Adama Touray was forced to come to sell to avoid her fish getting perished. He said the information regarding the strike has affected her business. “The pronouncement has affected our market because people thought there will be no market. I was even relaxing at home until I decided to come to study the environment,” she said.
Adama added that: “The business has suffered because it’s too slow today. I preserve my fish using ice-block but this is not sustainable. I just needed to sell it all out to avoid them being perished. And that’s unavoidable today.”