Monday, August 10, 2020

Truckers planned strike to inflame Botswana’s fuel crisis

Botswana’s fuel crisis is expected to get worse before it gets better as scores of drivers employed by international freight transportation company, Unitrans threaten to down tools should government fail to address their grievances.

This comes at a time when Botswana is facing crippling fuel shortages as a result of, among others, COVID-19 protocols imposed by neighbouring South Africa from where the country imports the bulk of its fuel. The country continues to witness long queues at fuel stations in Gaborone as some ran dry.

Sunday Standard can reveal that the disgruntled truck drivers on Monday delivered a petition to President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s office over what they term deficiency of leadership at the logistics company.  This publication has learnt that the employees of Unitrans Botswana demand that Unitrans Botswana should forthwith comply with COVID-19 protocols as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines.

According to the petition, a copy of which was intercepted by Sunday Standard, they also demand that the company should comply with an Industrial Court Order. In May this year, Unitrans Botswana truck drivers approached the Industrial Court to challenging the legality of ferrying fuel from South Africa into Botswana without following World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 guidelines. The Court ordered the company to comply with such health protocols.

In their current petition which will be delivered to Masisi’s office on Monday, the employees and truck drivers also call for the immediate resignations of Moses Sebolai and Mike Schelin who are apparently some of the top executives of the company.

They also demand immediate payment of subsistence allowances as per a 2015 collective wage agreement. The employees also demand immediate payment of risk allowance occasioned by the fact that they continue to risk their lives in what they call high risk neighbouring South Africa.

They also demand an explanation as to “the deductions of some of the employees ‘on tax which is not consistent with BURS standards.” They also called on the Ministry of Employment Labour Productivity and Skills Development, the COVID-19 Presidential Task Force Office of the President.

They stated that if their demands are not addressed, “we may be tempted to explore other avenues which may include from work forthwith.” The company is one of the leading trucking businesses and transporting companies that ferry essential goods such as fuel into Botswana.  The employees also demand the reinstatement of their colleagues who were recently fired for speaking out against what they term deplorable working conditions.

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