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OPC, truck drivers resolve differences

FLASHBACK—Truck drivers during a previous strike

By Isaac Salima

The Office of the President and Cabinet (OPC) and other stakeholders Monday engaged members of Professional Drivers Union of Malawi (Produm) and agreed on a number of issues.

Produm last week threatened to go on a nationwide strike in reaction to what its leaders claimed to be failure by authorities to address their concerns.

Yesterday, however, the union announced the cancellation of the sit-in after being approached by government officials to go for discussions.

Produm Chairperson Major Mkandawire confirmed the development, describing the meeting with OPC officials as fruitful.

“We have discussed almost all issues of concern. Government officials have assured us that, among other issues, the government has now gazetted a passport of 48 pages, instead of 36-page ones, which we will now be paying for at K60,000,” Mkandawire said.

On the issue of salaries, which saw the union demanding a 200 percent increase and a similar hike for international travel, Mkandawire said they have urged Ministry of Labour officials to ensure that this is enforced.

“We understand that this has to be addressed by our employers but they, as government, have an obligation to ensure that this is enforced,” he said.

Ministry of Transport Principal Secretary Hastings Chiudzu, in an emailed response, said: “Indeed I was part of a meeting with the drivers union. The meeting was called by OPC. It would be inappropriate for me to speak on behalf of OPC.”

OPC Secretary Colleen Zamba did not pick our calls when we made attempts to contact her.

The feud between truck drivers and the government dates back to 2018 and the drivers have been resorting to strikes in some instances.

This week, Employers Consultative Association of Malawi (Ecam) accused Produm of misplacing its members’ grievances.

Ecam said the drivers have advanced their grievances to a wrong entity, the government, which is not their employer.

“Matters of wages and remuneration are contractual obligations between an employer and employee. In this instance, government is not the employer for truck drivers and it is therefore misplaced that the drivers are proceeding on strike for failure by government to adjust the drivers’ remuneration. The strike should be against their employers,” reads Ecam’s letter dated September 16 2022 and signed by executive director George Khaki and addressed to Secretary for Labour Wezi Kayira.

He also said the strike was coming at a wrong time when the industry is struggling due to energy and fuel supply challenges.

“This will further impact on the constrained space that the industry is operating in. This is likely to lead to the industry stopping operations and laying off workers to avoid incurring further losses.

“Ecam therefore urges government to ensure that the intended strike by truck drivers is done within the provisions of the Labour Relations Act. Should the strike not be in line with the laws of the country, appropriate action should be taken,” Khaki said.

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