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Salaries for long distance truck drivers are expected to increase based on a three year study by the Ethiopian Transport Authority (ETA).
The study recommended maximum working hours, pensions, job security and other changes based on concerns raised by drivers. Their suggestions are expected to be implemented by the transporters and owners association.
According to the research, drivers often carry contraband items to supplement their low incomes. When drivers do this it puts the owners at risk because they can have their trucks, which cost millions of birr, confiscated.
The report recommends drivers be paid more although it suggests that the difficulty of the job and the capacity of the owners be taken into account. “Even though we recommend a specific salary, increasing driver’s income must fit the conditions of the job, this is crucial for the owner,” Endale Demeku, coordinator of the study told Capital.
According to the report, drivers and owners often don’t use contracts, leading to multiple court cases to solve conflicts. Owners and drivers terminate their relationship whenever they want which affects both parties’ rights and the nation indirectly.
The study recommends that drivers work between 11 and 16 hours a day, keeping in line with global standards. This would be a higher working day than the Ethiopian labor law allows.
It also calls for the implementation of the national traffic law and forbidding long distance drivers from operating at night. “The working hour includes the waiting, loading and unloading hours,” said Endale. “As the corridors of the nation have very high temperatures drivers prefer to drive at night,” he said. “However, that puts them at greater risk of traffic accidents.”
Drivers do not have pensions so when they become too old to drive, they often do not have enough to support themselves.
“We believe the changes will be implemented by associations as they were part of the research in the first place,” he said. “Even though we can’t mandate a minimum wage, we will pressure the owners to do this.”
Endale also said that the research can be an example for other kinds of transporters to properly implement Ethiopia’s labor law. The research team consists of five permanent members from the Authority three owners associations and 4 transportation delegates.
Mehari Reda (Phd), a prominent labor law expert, thinks the main problem is the result of a misunderstanding about the labor law. “The fact that you have no written agreement doesn’t mean that you don’t have legal relationships, or that the labor law doesn’t demand a written agreement,” he said.
Mehari believes that governmental intuitions like the Ethiopian Revenues and Customs Authority (ERCA) and the Social Security Agency are accountable for enforcing tax and pension issues. He also told Capital that the drivers sometimes refuse to work if the company cuts taxes and pensions.
“As there is skilled manpower in the area drivers will leave their company for a slight salary difference without considering the owner,” he said. “However, the government suffers when there is an interruption in imports as the job is the life line of the nation.”
Court controversies will increase if drivers can’t get jobs easily because drivers don’t want to waste their time in the court. He recommends executing agencies be strengthened and the labor law become binding regardless of if a contract is in place.
The research is expected to be tabled for discussion by the associations in a week.
Currently there are about 15,000 cross border trucks.