‘80% of truck drivers are South African’
Durban - The National Bargaining Council for the Road Freight and Logistics Industry has said by far the majority of truck drivers in SA, who fall under their jurisdiction, are local citizens.
The bargaining council reacted to comments made by the All Truck Drivers Foundation (ATDF), which claimed this week that about 80% of truck drivers employed by SA companies were foreign nationals.
The ATDF has embarked on protest action, demanding foreign truck drivers vacate their jobs by December 1, or the companies employing them would be targeted.
The local drivers claimed they were marginalised, as trucking companies preferred to hire foreign drivers because it was cheaper.
The protest action came amid a spate of truck attacks, in provinces across the country, in the past weeks. In one incident, a truck driver was killed. The ATDF has denied any involvement in the violence.
The bargaining council said according to its statistics, the industry employed 44 021 local truck drivers and 6 756 foreigners.
This equates to 84.66% locals and 15.34% foreigners employed in the road freight and logistics industry, for companies registered with the council and within its jurisdiction.
The council said its jurisdiction was limited to trucking companies transporting goods for gain or reward and on behalf of a third party. Employers who transport their own goods are excluded from the council’s jurisdiction.
The council added it had been actively participating in the Inter-Ministerial Task Team, to resolve issues relating to the employment of foreigners in the freight industry.
The task team, which includes the Ministers of Employment and Labour, Home Affairs, Transport, and Police, was mandated to deal with the grievances raised by local drivers, including their claim that foreigners were given preference.
The council said its position concerning the employment of foreigners was governed by Clause 58 of its Main Collective Agreement.
This agreement states companies are prohibited from employing an illegal foreigner or a foreigner whose status does not authorise him or her to be employed.
“In this regard, the council has been working with the Departments of Home Affairs, Labour, and Police, on joint inspections to enforce compliance in our industry in so far as it relates to the employment of undocumented foreign nationals.”
The council said truck attacks endangered the lives of drivers and posed a threat to the economic viability of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region.
Malcolm Hartwell, Master Mariner and head of transport at Norton Rose Fulbright, said the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement would fail if trucks were not allowed to move freely between South Africa and neighbouring countries.
His comments came after the SADC Crossborder Drivers Association threatened to prevent South African-registrered trucks from crossing their borders.
Hartwell said intra-Africa trade was expected to boost the African economy, with the removal of tariffs, once AfCFTA was implemented in January next year.
He said while South Africa remained best positioned to be the gateway into
Africa, attacks on the trucking industry by frustrated SA drivers, or by other countries in retaliation, would have a negative impact.
“Our neighbours are investing in transport infrastructure and have already started taking business away from SA,” said Hartwell.
He said AfCFTA was designed to liberalise trade and create the world’s largest free trade area.
“AfCFTA has no prospect of succeeding if trucks are not allowed to move freely between SA and our neighbours.”
According to Hartwell, no trucks meant no trade, which ultimately meant no economic activity and even greater unemployment in the region.
“Stopping SA trucks leaving SA will have a disastrous effect on the SA logistics and trucking industries, and place huge pressure on our neighbours’ economies.
“This is not only because they are so reliant on SA produced goods, but also because many of their economies are dependent on one or a few export commodities,” he said.
Hartwell added that while local frustration was understandable, the reality was that all African economies, heavily dependent on road transport, benefited from SA remaining the gateway into sub-Saharan Africa.
“We need these problems to be properly resolved before it becomes more viable for say Zambia, to export all its copper through Mozambique,” he warned.
Earlier this week, President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the violence and vandalism. He directed the Ministers of Employment and Labour, Transport, Home Affairs, and Police, to submit a report on the violence.