Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Angry ambulance drivers drag Riders to Labour

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By Kebba Camara

At least 29 drivers employed by Riders For Health have voiced their grievances regarding what they perceive as unjust working conditions to the Department of Labour, insisting that management compensate them for “all past allowances, including overtime and risk allowance.”

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Momodou Jallow, Chairman of the Ambulance Driver’s Association, has highlighted several challenges faced by them at Riders, leading to a report being filed with Labour.

Mr Jallow, representing the drivers, claimed that Riders have failed to compensate for overtime and public holidays. Typically, he noted, a single driver is assigned to a facility, resulting in an excessive workload. He further said drivers have been denied annual leave for several years, including weekends.

“So, we are demanding the management to pay us all previous allowances including overtime and risk allowance. Some of our drivers have contracted diseases during the job and some died,” he said.

The Public Relations Officer of the drivers, Mr. Fabakary Ndong, expressed similar concerns, accusing the management of Riders of overworking the staff. Mr Ndong stated that following their formal complaint to the labour department, the management reacted angrily and reassigned some of the staff to rural areas.

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“Some of us have stopped reporting to our workplaces because the management is not happy that we went to labour. For me personally, they said they transferred me to Kaur and am not going,” he said.

Many who spoke to this reporter expressed that Riders had taken their staff for a ride, declaring that enough is enough.

In an interview at his office, the Administrative Manager of Riders For Health Ken Bugul Diko, said they have collaborated with drivers for over 22 years. He mentioned that Riders offer better compensation than the government’s pay scale, which attracts many drivers to their service.

He refuted allegations of overworking drivers, explaining that larger facilities are staffed with two drivers on a shift basis, while smaller ones operate with a single driver. For instance, in Brikama, drivers Fabakary Ndong and Lamin Sanneh work in shifts, and Mr Diko expressed uncertainty regarding their grievances.

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“Look, we give them leave every year and we have that evidence in our files. We pay them allowances and this includes hardship allowance and overtime.

“Some of them don’t want to go on leave when their leaves are due.  We have that evidence too. To the best of our knowledge, we don’t owe them anything.”

In response to the question of why some drivers were suddenly transferred upcountry, Mr Bugut Mbye explained that it is a routine practice to transfer drivers periodically. He refuted the drivers’ claims that the transfers were being used as a form of punishment.

“Go and check the documents again, we did these transfers way before they went to the labour department. In fact, we want to believe that it is because of these transfers they ran to labour,” Mbye said.

Mr Mbye stated that they hold the labour department in high regard and will comply with any decision it makes. The drivers and riders have scheduled another meeting at the Labour Department on the 29th of this month.

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