Monday, June 1, 2015

Drivers in doubt over the implementation of their fate

Hardly a month now since the government formed a thirteen person permanent committee to investigate the long standing contractual problems involving drivers and their employers in the country, some drivers have expressed their doubts over the slow pace of the implementation on the matter.  Speaking in an exclusive interview early this week in Dar es Salaam drivers have attributed the government’s approach over the matter as being slacking and not promptly taken into seriousness. Drivers’ great disappointment is that are surprised to see no any signs of progresses despite earlier pledge by the government that it could solve their matters as quick as possible as a way of giving a wave of expectations to the weary and irritated drivers. In view of this, are in doubt and claimed that, at this time around they could have been informed of the preliminary progress about their fate through their association but to no avail. Ramadhani Njama a driver with TVC Bus Trans said that, drivers’ issue is still irritating as most of them are anxious to know how the government would react against, but have come to the point of despairing owing to the government’s silent move which ushers a sense of apparent deadlock. Christopher Ally a driver with Abood Buses said that, he is surprised to see why the government is delaying with the matter and yet everything is known, and added that what was needed is to pressurize transporters to execute the demands as in accordance with the government’s laws and regulations set for employment. However, he is suspicious with the implementation move from the government side as delaying with the issue is like to deny their rights, however he said adding that a slow move by the government instinctively indicates that, no clear solutions would be attained.  Another driver who spoke on strict condition of anonymity for fear of being subjected by his employer castigated the government for not being so active to work on their issue because many buses are owned by government officials, and some of them have shares in big transport companies which he didn’t mention when asked. “This issue will be difficult to be solved by the government as most buses are owned by government officials who are reluctant to issue employment contracts to drivers, and instead prefers them to work as casual labourers relying on poor remunerations”, he  said. 

It was an hectic exercise during a recent drivers' strike in Dar es Salaam.

He further noted that, this is why no any employer who ever tried to take to court their drivers who went on a two day recent strike because they know that they do not have permanent contracts with which they could sue them for causing losses. He has predicted that, in case the government would not solve their grievances this time around, they would resort to organize another strike which he says would be the worst ever seen of all series of strikes which have taken place in the past. This paper made extra efforts to contact officials of Surface and Marine Transport Authority (SUMATRA) who could not be in a position to talk about the issue as it was being investigated by the government formed committee team. However, a spokesperson of the ministry of labour, youths and employment Ridhiwani Wema said that, drivers need to draw a little patience at this time when the government is working on their issue that once the selected committee has finished investigations would be made public. Drivers through their Uwamata association were demanding better working conditions including employment contracts most of whom do not have with their employers. Among the things they are demanding is to be registered with NSSF or any other pension fund scheme, annual leave, salary increments, medical services and other fringe benefits that a normal Tanzanian employee is entitled with. Apart from the remunerations and other fringe benefits, drivers also wanted a clear government stand on the Public Notice No. 31 directing drivers holding Driving Licence Class E, C3, C2, C1 and C to attend a re-fresher course at a recognized institution and be re-tested before a re-issuance of a licence. Drivers say this plan is unnecessary and exploitative. In mid April this year drivers went on a half-day strike over the same issue and resumed work only after the minister for Labour and Employment, Ms Gaudensia Kabaka, met them and said the re-fresher programme directive had been revoked. In early this month, Drivers Association of Tanzania (Uwamata) organized a two day countrywide strike that to some extent rocked the national economy and it came into a halt upon agreement between the two parties to oversee the matter when the government pledged to settle down their queries. The team members which is being led by the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Transport, Dr. Shabaan Mwinjaka as a chair person is yet to reveal what is inside a nutshell that cause drivers to organize a series of strike despite of the promise to work over the matter more promptly. Minister for Transport, Samuel Sitta was quoted by the media as saying that the committee will be meeting frequently to discuss various concerns facing the drivers and come up with solutions.

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