Truck drivers have called off their strike that paralysed transportation of imports and exports after agreeing to a K60 000 monthly minimum pay.
The decision followed a five-hour heated meeting between government representatives and transporters at Ministry of Transport and Public Works conference room at the Capital Hill from 10 am to 2pm. They agreed to peg the minimum wage at K60 000 for ordinary truck drivers and K140 000 for fuel tanker drivers.
Briefing journalists after the meeting, Minister of Transport and Public Works Ralph Jooma said he was happy that the parties reached a consensus on minimum wage for the time being.
He said the figure might change as discussions are ongoing.
Said Jooma: “We started talking about this issue last week. It is not only the salaries issue that they want addressed. That is why we instituted a task force which was supposed to give answers after two weeks.
“However, to our surprise we saw the drivers putting down tools, but we are happy that after a lengthy discussion we have agreed on something.”
The minister said it was unfortunate that some transporters were not abiding to the minimum wage of K140 000 for fuel tanker drivers as set by Malawi Energy Regulatory Authority (Mera).
Truck Drivers Association of Malawi president Richard Jubeki Phiri said the meeting has given them hope; hence, calling off the strike.
He said that they are not happy with the temporary minimum wage, but they wanted government to push transporters to raise salaries for professional truck drivers to the range of K300 000 and K500 000 to be at par with their colleagues in the Southern Africa Development Community (Sadc) region.
Phiri said it also transpired during the meeting that only 30 percent of transporters in Malawi are able to transport goods while the remaining 70 percent is taken by international hauliers.
On his part, Road Transport Operators Association vice-president Moses Chauluka faulted government for sidelining local hauliers in contracts, a development he said contributes to low wages of the drivers.
He said: “We have agreed to put K60 000 and K140 000. We have tried our level best to settle this issue, that is why we have decided to give in to an increment. This is not the final payment.”
Transporters Association chairperson Sameer Suleman reiterated Chauluka’s concern on lack of contracts for local hauliers and appealed to government to consider Malawian transporters.
On Monday and yesterday, about 1 000 trucks were grounded as drivers demanded pay rise from K30 000.
Trucks are a major mode of transportation of goods in landlocked Malawi