BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
DRIVERS at a leading international logistics firm, J&J Transport, have been on strike since 15 May over poor working conditions, NewsDay Business has learnt.
J&J Transport, which is owned by Jens Peter Jensen, is one of the largest integrated logistics operators on the Beira corridor with a fleet of over 1 740 freightliner trucks and depots across Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The drivers, who dumped their trucks at Kasumbalesa Border Post in DRC on May 15, are demanding to be paid health allowances amounting to US$500 per load for transporting dangerous goods such as cobalt hydroxide and sulphur. They are also complaining of lack of home time.
One of the drivers, who declined to be identified for fear of victimisation, said they tried to engage the employer over the issues to no avail.
“We are made to transport dangerous goods but we are not getting any health allowance like other truck drivers. We also lack home time as we spend most of the time on the road,” the driver said, adding that there were about 200 drivers on
Zimbabwe Haulage Truck Drivers Union secretary-general Kennedy Tichaona Masese said drivers decided to withdraw their labour due to a number of unsolved grievances.
“They were saying they are transporting dangerous goods but are not given allowances. They were roughly claiming US$500 per load. Before withdrawing their labour, they tried to communicate with their employer but got no response,” he said.
“I don’t want to call it a strike but to say they withdrew their labour because they have the right to do that. They did it when they were right in Congo and the management tried to send a representative so that they could dialogue. On May 28, the management sent a representative but failed to reach a consensus.”
Masese said some drivers were attacked by thugs while others were arrested to push them to go back to work.
“The situation just changed whereby you could see soldiers and police coming in, harassing and arresting drivers. Some thugs also stoned the drivers. We don’t know who gave them the right to do that.”
NewsDay saw videos of drivers being attacked with stones.
He said following the skirmishes, the company agreed to dialogue.
Masese said employers should allow trade unions to engage their members but for that to happen they must create a platform.
Reached for comment, Jensen said they were “aware of the issues and are doing our utmost to resolve them with our drivers.”
The company employs over 400 drivers in Zimbabwe.
Truck driving in Zimbabwe has challenges such as long hours and poor ablution facilities at the borders, high accident rates due to driver fatigue, hijacking and lack of networks in places along the routes which can be dangerous in case of breakdowns or other emergencies.
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