Johannesburg - The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satawu) has blamed truck companies for the ongoing violence between South African and foreign drivers.
This comes after videos of foreign drivers being beaten by South African drivers went viral on social media. In one video, local drivers can be seen beating a driver from eSwatini and telling him to stay in his country.
Satawu says freight companies were causing tensions between desperate Africans. Satawu general secretary Anele Kiet said South African drivers were not industry favourites because they stood a chance of making more money while travelling cross-country compared to foreign drivers, who would normally settle for less.
“The drivers are complaining that employers chose the foreign nationals because they take whatever salary they are offered and don’t comply with the road freight bargain counsel.
“These employers hire these foreign nationals and they work nonstop. Our foreign nationals accept anything because of their economic system,” Kiet said.
The union said it believed that South African drivers were not xenophobic but were victims of a suffering economy and a capitalist industry, which only cared about making profit at the expense of workers.
“We are not against the appointment of foreign nationals but they must come to South Africa with permits, all the requirements to work here, and also make sure that the people appointing them are in compliance with the laws of this country because that’s what makes it harder for South Africans to get a job – because the foreign nationals allow themselves to be used as cheap labour, so you will get these reactions from South Africans who have these qualifications, but don’t get employed,” Kiet said.
Kiet said the trucking unions would be raising these issues in the wage negotiations that start tomorrow.
It was not clear how much unions would be asking for, but there were concerns about South African drivers not being able to buy property. The average truck driver earns R8 000.
They were likely to make more than R15 000 if they worked beyond nine hours.
“A decent job means you must afford to have a house and take care of your family. The drivers work overtime to afford a decent life. Workers can’t survive with their basic salary, some can’t even get houses.
“Workers must earn a salary that allows them to be respected by their children,” Kiet said.
“(Companies) use these workers and they don’t register them with the bargaining council because there are levies that they need to pay on behalf of workers, so they chose to hire the foreign nationals to avoid such payments,” added Kiet.
Kiet said unions could not rule out the possibility of a strike, should the employers not negotiate in good faith.
“Our members have indicated they are eager to fight for what is right for them. When Covid-19 started, our members were working and they took risks – now it is time that they benefit from those risks,” Kiet said.