Labour Minister Nxesi blames 'weak' unions for trucking industry violence

Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi said that had trade union shop stewards been effective, trucking employers hiring foreign nationals at the expense of locals would have been dealt with before it became a crisis.

FILE: Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi addresses a media briefing in Pretoria on level 3 lockdown regulations on 29 May 2020. Picture: @GCISMedia/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi attributed some of the friction in the country’s now volatile trucking industry to weakened trade unions.

Freight trucks have been under attack for a while now, with ambushes as recent as in the last few months. The series of arson attacks were mostly carried out on major highways by people who were protesting against the industry’s employment of foreign nationals.

In a wide-ranging interview last week, Nxesi told Eyewitness News that had trade union shop stewards been effective, trucking employers hiring foreign nationals at the expense of locals would have been dealt with before it became a crisis.

“Whether we like it or not, we would never be able to reach all the areas. But if we are working cooperatively with the responsible employers, strong unions, then we would be able to deal with some of the issues. But the reality is that unions have also become weak on the shop floor. They got divided and there are lots of splinter groupings instead of working together,” he said.

For years, the South African Transport And Allied Workers Union (Satawu) was the majority union in the sector. But infighting over the union’s resources saw it crumble.

The minister said that attempts by trucking companies to deal with the problem by hiring security companies to accompany cargo was also not sustainable.

Government has put in place a multidisciplinary committee led by the Employment and Labour Department to deal with the issue.

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