The government last evening moved in to quell a strike by truck drivers who resumed their protest on Wednesday after initially indicating on Tuesday they would end their industrial action that has grounded 1000-plus trucks nationwide.
Three Cabinet ministers Martha Lunji (Labour, Skills and Innovation), Ralph Jooma (Transport and Public Works) and Nicholas Dausi (Homeland Security) as well as Deputy Minister Homeland Security Charles Mchacha met representatives of the truck drivers at Capital Hill from around 7.30 pm.
The meeting, among others, resolved to maintain the minimum wage at K60 000 for truck drivers as agreed during their Tuesday meeting. However, last evening’s meeting resolved to peg the minimum pay for truck drivers hauling dry cargo of 30 tonnes and above at K100 000.
The parties were working on putting their new resolutions on paper as we went to press at around 9.30pm.
The ministers moved in after the truck drivers earlier threatened to effect a shutdown of roads to all manner of traffic effective today.
During the Tuesday meeting at Capital Hill attended by representatives of transporters, truck drivers and government, the parties said they settled for a minimum K60 000 monthly pay for ordinary truck drivers and a minimum K140 000 monthly pay for fuel tanker drivers.
But yesterday, truck drivers mostly from the Central and Northern regions continued with their strike. They accused their leaders of being weak and not advancing their interests when they met authorities on Tuesday.
Again, the Truck Drivers Association of Malawi (TDAM) members ignored their executive and appointed a team that went to Capital Hill to demand 100 percent pay hike effective this month.
TDAM executive member Francis Mkandawire said the planned traffic shutdown was expected to affect the cities of Lilongwe and Mzuzu as well as border posts of Mchinji, Karonga and Chitipa.
By mid-morning yesterday, the striking drivers were asked to allow some fuel tankers at Kanengo to distribute fuel at service stations. The tankers left under the escort of Malawi Defence Force (MDF).
The two-day industrial action negatively affected fuel supplies, mainly in Lilongwe City where most service stations were dry. The few that had fuel had long queues of vehicles last evening.
Ministry of Transport and Public Works spokesperson James Chakwera said in an interview yesterday that by continuing with the strike, the drivers demonstrated that they are not engaging government in good faith.
He said: “We had the meeting where the resolution was made. Unfortunately, the meeting took too long and we could not produce a signed communiqué. But I am sure there will be minutes of the meeting highlighting the solutions.”
Trucks are a major mode of transport for both imports and exports as well as cross-country distribution for landlocked Malawi.
From Monday, truck drivers grounded about 1 000 trucks as drivers demanded pay rise from K30 000 per month.