Weeks after truck drivers, Ministry of Transport and Public Works and other stakeholders agreed on a K100 000 minimum pay for the former, Transporters Association of Malawi (TAM) says it will not honour the resolution.
The association said yesterday they can only raise the pay for truck drivers if government addresses some challenges affecting local hauliers.
The transporters, among others, want transport rates reinstated to 2004 levels and that government should address the invasion and dominance of foreign transporters.
During a news conference in Lilongwe yesterday, TAM chairperson Layton Dzombe accused Capital Hill of giving transporters “a cold shoulder,” saying the association presented a petition highlighting its issues four weeks ago.
Towards the end of October, about 1 000 trucks were grounded, thereby stalling economic activity as Truck Drivers Association of Malawi (Tdam) members demanded a 300 percent pay hike.
The two-day industrial action negatively affected fuel supplies, mainly in Lilongwe City. It was resolved after the drivers met senior government officials led by Minister of Transport and Public Works Ralph Jooma and resolved to peg the minimum pay for truck drivers hauling dry cargo of 30 tonnes and above at K100 000.
But yesterday, Dzombe, flanked by other TAM executive members, brought a new twist to the matter by claiming that the truck owners were not party to the agreement that resolved to raise pay for truck drivers.
He said: “Paying our drivers K100 000 is not a problem for us. In fact, we sympathise with them because the cost of living is very high at the moment.
“But what we are saying is that government must first address our concerns including revising the haulage rates and also devising policies that are friendly in nature to Malawian-owned businesses.
“Policies with most Sadc region countries stipulate that 70 percent of imported goods be carried by local transporters and 30 percent by foreign transporters, but this is not the case currently in Malawi where foreign transporters take up to 80 percent of the business.”
Clarifying on the rates, Dzombe said in 2004, transporters were getting $3 300 (about K2.5 million based on the current exchange rate) between Beira and Lilongwe but today the international rate has tumbled to $1 650 (K1.2 million).
Chipping in, TAM executive member Sympathy Chisale said it is disheartening to note that currently, most imports into the country are transported by foreign hauling companies at the expense of local transporters.
Another member of the association, Frank Banda, said it was imperative that Capital Hill discusses with all stakeholders, including the accused companies that are offering low transport rates to avoid a potential crisis.
He said: “It costs about K80 million for a transporter to buy a brand new truck and it costs between K20 million and K30 million to buy a second-hand truck. But most transporters are almost bankrupt because they are failing to service or repay the loans they obtained from commercial banks due to loss of business.”
Reacting to TAM concerns, Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera said his ministry received the petition highlighting the concerns.
But he dismissed accusations that the ministry is giving TAM a “cold shoulder”, saying government has actually called for a meeting today with all stakeholders in the matter and companies that give the transporters business.
Said Chakwera: “We were supposed to have this meeting last week, but our minister was out.”
During the meeting between truck drivers and government officials, delegates resolved to form a task force to look into the highlighted problems.
Trucks are a major mode of transport for both imports and exports of landlocked Malawi as well as for cross-country distribution.