THE Namibian Revolutionary Transport Union (Naretu) says it has managed to save the jobs of about 300 truck drivers facing retrenchment this year.
Naretu notes that local truck drivers continue to face hijackings in South Africa.
Naretu leader Petersen Kambinda recently told Desert Radio that close to 400 members were facing retrenchments between June and July. However, due to Naretu’s intervention, Kambinda said 300 of the total retrenched workers were absorbed by other companies, with only 100 ending up on the streets.
“We also explored alternatives to ensure that they got jobs and ensured that all the retrenched employees walked away with decent packages.”
The retrenchments were the result of the competitive nature of the logistics industry, particularly related to trucking, he said.
“As we speak, there is another company with which we are having talks. The employees were supposed to have been retrenched at the end of October but because we reached an agreement, the company is still paying those workers’ salaries until now.”
Kambinda added that once a deadlock was reached, the union referred the matter to the Office of the Labour Commissioner.
While Naretu’s footprint continues to expand in all regions of the country, workers in the sector are challenged by the ignorance of employers, who perceive them joining unions as declarations of war, he said.
“Some employers still regard the issue of employees joining unions as a thorn in their flesh, which is not how it’s supposed to be, because the employees are just exercising their constitutional rights.”
Kambinda was, however, quick to indicate that the cynicism among employers has been arrested by guaranteeing them that the union is beneficial for all parties.
This has resulted in Naretu “signing new wage agreements almost every month”.
“For this year alone, we have signed up 48 wage agreements for our members.”
SALARIES AND HIJACKINGS
Kambinda said the average salary for a truck driver is N$15 000, which is divided in different components, including a basic salary and allowances.
Whether or not the amount of money earned by truck drivers is commensurate with the risks they are exposed to is debatable, but Kambinda said the struggle is real for truck drivers, especially those on the Namibia-South Africa routes.
“This year alone, four of our members were hijacked. Last year the hijackings involving our members totalled eight,” Kambinda said, adding that some of the victims were beaten, while in other instances, robbers took the trucks and the goods.
Despite this, the Namibia-South Africa route remains the most economically viable for Namibia, as most of the country’s commodities are transported from or through South Africa.
As such, Naretu has established a WhatsApp group through which truck drivers can warn one another of strikes and other disruptions on their routes.
‘THANK A TRUCKER CAMPAIGN’
Meanwhile, Walvis Bay Corridor Group (WBCG) chief executive Hippy Tjivikua said his company has cultivated good relations with truck drivers across the board.
“We recognise truck drivers as key players in our sector, as such we provide all truck drivers, irrespective of where they are from, with free medical services.”
This includes issuing condoms, providing access to chronic medication and the treatment of injuries, Tjivikua said.
The WBCG also provides road safety advice and sensitises drivers about security issues and how to protect themselves.
“Two weeks ago, we hosted our ‘Thank a Trucker Campaign,’ an annual event where we engage truckers from all corners of the world who pass through the corridor,” Tjivikua said.
The campaign was initiated in 2021 through the collaboration of the Trans Kalahari Corridor Secretariat, Namibia’s National Road Safety Council and the WBCG to advocate road safety and appreciate truck drivers.
Works and transport minister John Mutorwa declined to dwell on the matter, suggesting that comment should be sought from organised truck owners organisations.
Efforts to reach Namibia Logistics Association secretary general Harald Schmidt proved futile as his phone was unreachable.
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