BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
The DRIVERS of a large international logistics company, J&J Transport, have been on strike since May 15 for poor working conditions, NewsDay Company has learned.
J&J Transport, owned by Jens Peter Jensen, is one of the largest integrated logistics operators on the Beira Corridor with a fleet of over 1,740 freight trucks and depots across Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The drivers, who unloaded their trucks at the Kasumbalesa border post in the DRC on May 15, are demanding payment of health allowances amounting to $500 per load for transporting dangerous goods such as cobalt hydroxide and sulfur . They also complain about the lack of time at home.
One of the drivers, who declined to be identified for fear of being victimized, said he tried to engage the employer on the issues to no avail.
“We are made to transport dangerous goods but we do not benefit from any health allowance like other truck drivers. We also lack time at home as we spend most of the time on the road,” the driver said, adding that there were around 200 drivers on the road.
Zimbabwe Haulage Truck Drivers Union general secretary Kennedy Tichaona Masese said the drivers decided to withdraw from their jobs due to a number of unresolved grievances.
“They said they were carrying dangerous goods but were not receiving allowances. They were asking about US$500 per load. Before they stopped working, they tried to contact their employer but got no response,” he said.
“I don’t want to call it a strike but say they stopped working because they have the right to do so. They did it when they were in the middle of the Congo and the management tried to send a representative so that they could have a dialogue. On May 28, management sent a representative but failed to reach a consensus.
Masese said some drivers were attacked by thugs while others were arrested to pressure them back to work.
“The situation has just changed and 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 this.
NewsDay seen videos of drivers being attacked with stones.
He said that following the skirmishes, the company agreed to dialogue.
Masese said employers should allow unions to hire their members, but for that to happen they need to create a platform.
Reached for comment, Jensen said they were “aware of the issues and are doing everything possible to resolve them with our drivers”.
The company employs over 400 drivers in Zimbabwe.
Driving trucks in Zimbabwe presents challenges such as long hours and poor sanitary facilities at borders, high accident rates due to driver fatigue, diversions and lack of networks at places along the roads that can be dangerous in the event of a breakdown or other emergencies.
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