By RABECCA CHIPANTA –
FUEL hauliers have called off their strike following an emergency meeting with Copperbelt Minister Bowman Lusambo who has assured that the drivers’ concerns will be addressed.
One of the key decisions was to ensure that Sahara and Dalbit, two foreign companies contracted by Government to supply fuel to Tazama, would offer 20 percent of the transportation business Zambian truckers.
The drivers downed tools on Wednesday in a move to press for a larger share of business to move fuel supply to local companies like mining firms and the airports which they claimed were dominated by foreigners.
Zambia Association of Tanker Drivers and Allied Workers (ZATDAW) general secretary Humphrey Kapesha said the decision to resume work was arrived at following yesterday’s meeting.
Mr Kapesha said following the meeting, the two suppliers were requested to give local transporters a fair share of the business.
Mr Kapesha said it was not the union’s desire to hold the Government to ransom as the strike had an adverse effect on the economy.
“The drivers have agreed that in the interim, after signing the contracts, that they go back for work because we cannot hold the economy to ransom. We will have a meeting with the Minister of Energy over those engaged to take fuel to the mines,” he said.
It was hoped that the meeting, a policy would be put in place that would favour the local drivers and also keep foreigner firms from handling and transporting fuel directly to the mines.
He said the 20 percent allocation would be given collectively to the Petroleum Transporters Association of Zambia (PTAZ), who would in turn divide it among the 32 local transporters.
Meanwhile, Energy Permanent Secretary Emelda Chola said in a statement that the tanker drivers were aware that everything possible was being done to improve their welfare following consultative meetings that ended on Wednesday in Livingstone.
“It is from these consultative meetings that the Ministry learnt of the Zambian driver’s entry charges into Tanzania. These charges have since been removed. The cry of drivers has been heard and all the fuel suppliers have been tasked to give us reports on how many Zambian drivers have been contracted and over what period. We are currently awaiting responses from our suppliers before any action can be taken,” she said.
She reaffirmed that Government had prioritised empowering of local transporters by ensuring that a minimum of 20 percent local transportation was a contractual matter in all suppliers’ contracts.
“The Ministry will insist that this is implemented if the on-going assessment of this matter reveals that our suppliers are exclusively using foreign transporters. We therefore, urge the fuel tanker drivers to immediately stop their boycott as their grievances are being addressed,” she added.