Kenya’s Transport Workers Union (Tawu) is one of three from Africa who have joined more than 50 trade unions, representing over one million road transport workers, who are rallying for a new ‘Safe Rates’ system to improve workers’ rights and make roads safer.
General Secretary Dan Mihadisaid in Kenya, and in all countries in the global south, road transport workers worked in deplorable conditions.
“Formal employment relationships have been eroded, leaving workers with no protection against exploitation. Workers are compelled to work for long hours resulting in fatigue and dangerous driving in order to recover the cost of operation, as well as earn a living. Deep-rooted corruption and extortion on our roads further eats into the already low pay, leaving workers destitute.”
His words resonate with the issues experienced by South African transport workers.
He said Tawu was eager to learn from the experiences of other countries and consolidate this knowledge to ensure that safe rates legislation be developed which would permanently set minimum rates of pay and conditions for road transport workers.
The campaign, spearheaded by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), was launched in Seoul, Korea, and calls on governments, road transport employers and other industry stakeholders to support a system of regulatory and legal changes which unions say will not only dramatically improve conditions for road transport drivers, but also make roads safer for all road users.
A body of research by industry experts highlights the harsh reality for road safety when road transport drivers’ low pay and poor working conditions force them into dangerous on-road behaviours like driving for long hours, overloading and speeding. Evidence shows that paying decent wages, or ‘Safe Rates’, directly correlates with safer roads, with pay increases of as little as 10% reducing accident rates by 30%.
“Road transport business models and the chains of exploitation in subcontracting chains, are not only unsustainable, but they’re also deadly,” said Stephen Cotton, general secretary of the ITF. “In countries all around the world, low pay and long hours for road transport drivers aren’t just making life a misery for the workers who keep our economies moving – they are also causing death and carnage on our roads.
“Today we’re drawing a line in the sand and saying that enough is enough. We know that when drivers are paid properly and have decent conditions, they are able to work without being forced to risk their own lives and the lives of others on the roads.”
Unions from Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda are participating in the rally.