Transporters U-turn on drivers’ pay hike
Transporters Association of Malawi (Tam) Monday said it was not ready to start paying truck drivers an improved salary.
This decision might trigger another national strike by truck drivers who last month went on a strike to demand pay rise.
Tam Chairperson, Layton Dzombe, told reporters in Lilongwe Monday that the current operating environment remains unfavourable for transporters to warrant a wage hike for the drivers.
Late last month, the truck drivers staged a nationwide strike a desperate attempt to force the government to intervene in their welfare.
Among others, the drivers demanded an average salary of between K350, 000 to K500, 000 in line with their colleagues in the region. The strike saw the government intervening in the matter and setting a minimum salary of K60, 000 for truck drivers before hiking it further to K100, 000.
But Dzombe said they cannot hike salaries for drivers as business remains subdued and characterised by falling rates and dominance of foreign players.
He said if the government wants the transporters to hike packages for drivers, it must call the cargo owners and the transporters to a round table so as to address the issue of falling rates.
“The rates that are applying today are very low, therefore, making it hard for us to pay the drivers what they want. In transport business, there are many workers including mechanics and security guards. If we raise the salaries of drivers, we would also need to raise the salaries of the others.
“We appreciate that the take-home packages of the drivers remain on the lower side. A truck driver living in areas such as Kawale needs about K1, 000 for transport every day. In addition, they need about K1, 000 for lunch as well as money for rent and many other basic needs.
“We know that the driver needs a minimum salary of above K150, 000 per month but we don’t have the money because of the falling rates,” Dzombe said.
He blamed the government for not setting the minimum rates for people looking for transport services.
“For example, currently, we are getting $1,200 to transport goods from Malawi to Beira [Mozambique] down from $2,200 which we were getting. In addition, we used to be paid in cash unlike these days where it takes about a month before we are paid.
“From Beira to Malawi we used to get $3,300 but it has come down to $1,650. When we were getting $3,300, the price of a litre of diesel was K140, today a litre of diesel costs about K930. Motor vehicle spares are on the rise. The price of tyres has skyrocketed,” Dzombe said.
He claimed that the group which reached an agreement with the government on the new packages for drivers was not for transporters but brokers.
Truck Drivers Association Vice-Secretary, Francis Mkandawire, and Transport Minister, Ralph Jooma, were not immediately available for comment.
But speaking last month, Jooma said the government had set a task force to look at addressing the various challenges faced by transporters and drivers.