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Tuesday, July 16, 2024

SA truck drivers plan massive strike against employment of foreign nationals

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A nationwide strike against all trucking companies to remove foreign truck drivers and replace them with local drivers is on the cards and could start as soon as July 7.

This as the Covid-19 pandemic fuelled jobs bloodbath continue in the trucking industry – local truck drivers are demanding that trucking companies put South Africans first when they hire.

Big trucking companies are finding it difficult to continue operations after the economy slowed down abruptly following the announcement of the national disaster brought about by the Covid-19 crisis.

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A number of companies have either retrenched employees or even closed down recently.

This has reignited the local drivers’ need for trucking companies to put South Africans first when hiring as jobs become more scarce.

“We’re not saying that foreign drivers should not come into South Africa. We’re simply asking trucking companies to hire more South African citizens.

“It has nothing to do with xenophobia. Driving is not a scarce skill; there are many truck drivers in South Africa. It is our right to benefit and enjoy the fruits of our economy and enjoy our citizenship.” said one local driver.

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Complaints by local truck drivers

  • employers sidelining them for immigrant truck drivers. They say employers do this because they want foreign drivers who they can easily illtreat and pay less.
  • work permits issued by the South African government to immigrants from some Southern African countries. These special dispensation permits allow holders to work in the country with the same rights as citizens.
  • companies that hire 100% foreign employees. Local drivers have accused some trucking companies of hiring only non-citizens.
  • foreign truck drivers who accept less pay.

Several posters and videos inviting local drivers to join the strike have been making rounds online.

All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF)

While the posters say ATDF is behind the strike, Mandla Mngomezulu, the ATDF secretary-general in Gauteng, denied this according to a report in City Press.

“ATDF is not the one organising the strike against trucking companies, but we do support it. Trucking companies tend to hire foreign drivers rather than South Africans. It is a huge problem.

“Trucking companies often promise to resolve such issues, but promises are all we usually hear. Very soon we will be hearing that the problem has not been resolved, perhaps at Africircle or somewhere else,” Mngomezulu said.

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He was commenting on the mooted strike and a stand-off between Africirle and its local truck drivers where the drivers accuse the company of not recalling them back to work after the resumption of operations under lockdown level 3.

They allege that the company instead hired foreign truck drivers to replace them.

Instead of calling us back to work, Africircle replaced us with foreign nationals.

Truck driver

Africircle has denied allegations that drivers had been replaced by foreign nationals and said that the complaint was “unfounded”.

“We have a small complement of foreign nationals with valid work permits. They have been in the employ of the company for the past five years,” Africircle business consultant Kobilan Pillay said.

He said that they had reached an agreement to meet with the drivers’ representatives to attend to their issues.

“However, to our dismay, we later realised that a contingent of the ATDF members was at our gate demanding the removal of foreign drivers,” said Pillay.

Living in fear

Foreign truck drivers who spoke to SA Trucker, say they are living in fear.

“The posters awash online bring back memories of the torment we endured the last time local truck drivers targeted us and employers. We live in fear of not knowing whether this time the strike will be violent or not.

We have permits that allow us to work here legally but that does not seem to mean anything to them,” said one foreign truck driver.

A number of foreign truck drivers were attacked and trucks burnt at the heat of another strike by local truck drivers in 2018.

Kwazulu-Natal police arrested and charged some ATDF members who were terrorising truck drivers in the province.

It remains to be seen how this strike turns out this time given that gatherings are not allowed under alert level 3.

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