Truck drivers defy government, employers
The country’s truck drivers Wednesday defied the agreement reached on Tuesday between the government and transporters to call off a strike which started on Monday.
Yesterday morning, the truck drivers continued with the strike, saying they did not agree with the resolution reached on Tuesday afternoon at the Ministry of Transport headquarters in Lilongwe which they argued drew insignificant lines among truck drivers.
A visit by The Daily Times crew to Kanengo Industrial Area in Lilongwe Wednesday revealed that hundreds of trucks were parked on both sides of the road to Area 25.
The truck drivers were seen jeering as they forced other truck drivers to join the strike.
Conspicuously missing was Truck Drivers Association president Richard Phiri, who had led a delegation of the drivers to a meeting with government officials and the employers on Tuesday.
Phiri had announced after Tuesday’s meeting that the strike was over and that the drivers would return to work.
But Truck Drivers Association vice secretary, Francis Mkandawire, who led the protesters Wednesday, said the drivers were not happy with the resolutions reached during Tuesday’s meeting with government and the employers.
Among others, the Tuesday’s meeting had set a minimum salary of K60,000 for dry cargo drivers and K140,000 for fuel tanker drivers.
The drivers wondered why Tuesday’s resolution was putting a difference between tanker and dry cargo drivers when they were all truck drivers using a similar licence.
The drivers also demanded a salary of between K350,000 and K500,000 per month for all truck drivers regardless of whether they are driving wet or dry cargo.
Mkandawire said in an interview that the group asked them to go back to the negotiating table with the government and the employers to ask for improved packages.
“We spoke to Minister of Transport, Ralph Jooma, on the phone and has assured us that government is committed to improving our conditions.
“Jooma told us that the government has set up a task force to come up with a harmonised minimum salary for truck drivers within the next two weeks,” Mkandawire said.
But the drivers yesterday demanded a written commitment from government on the new salaries as well as on the issue of task force.
Jooma could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Former Transporters Association chairperson, Sameer Suleman, said the employers are committed to give the drivers what they want so long as government addresses some of the challenges affecting the industry.
Among others, Suleman said the industry is facing a big problem of foreign transporters invading Malawi business and big transporters undercutting business.
The strike is affecting essential services including delivery of fuel into the country.