PETROLEUM Transporters’ Association of Zambia (PTAZ) secretary general Benson Tembo says the recent strike by truck drivers was instigated solely because of misinformation relayed from the unions to the drivers.

Tembo says his association, whilst working with government, had endeavored to address all conditions of service for the drivers, but that unions failed to relay that information to the drivers.

He complained that unions had not been faithful in their dealings, especially with regards to government’s intention to come up with a sector-based minimum wage for vulnerable truck drivers.

“From all this, what I am getting is that there is too much misinformation and when somebody is misinformed, especially being told what you didn’t expect, they opt to react! From the time that the drivers made their demands, I am sure you have seen the reaction from the government. They talked about the certificates where they were made to go for belsome lessons every day. Government immediately removed that requirement. And they don’t go for these refresher courses to renew their certificates,” Tembo said.

“They talked about the validity of the license; you have seen government has three categories of the validity of the licence from one year to three years. The drivers talked about the conditions of service; it’s not hidden that government has constituted a Tripartite Consultative Council. That council was constituted because drivers thought there was need to come up with sector-based minimum wage and government responded so I’m falling to understand what it is that the drivers feel that government is not doing good? Because what it is is that a consultation cannot be done in one day. And especially a consultation of this magnitude where you are talking about a sector-based minimum wage.”

He explained that his association, together with government, had been working hard to address the challenges being faced by drivers, but that all the issues could not be dealt with at once.

“We are talking about companies or employers with one truck, employers with two trucks, three trucks and the one with 100 trucks, and put together, you want to come up with a common ground. You cannot do that in a day or two or even one month or two. Some of us have seen the progression of the consultation over the sector-based minimum wage, we have seen that a lot of work has been done. And all this information should have been relayed to the drivers through their unions, but it seems the drivers are not informed,” he said.

“So, they have a good cause by striking. The unions have not been faithful and fair to their members. Because this strike implies that the drivers would rather we heed to their demands every time they do so, it can’t be. Then, the other issue that was misinformation is the issue of who is covered under the minimum wage? Is it a driver who is unionised? No. Is it a driver on contract? No. It’s a driver who is not unionised, a driver who is not on contract.”

Tembo said the situation was, however, returning back to normal and that drivers would soon resume their normal operations.

“A vulnerable driver who is not represented. As such, drivers are being employed, what should we look at? Otherwise, other drivers are supposed to be represented by their unions and if they want salary increments, their unions can negotiate and bargain based on the state of the economy. But everything is coming back to normal now,” said Tembo.