The action has paralysed Kenya’s northern corridor, the region’s economic lifeline, with trucks carrying bulk cargo, containers and fuel further into Kenya and on to Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and Tanzania. The police have been drafted in but say they can do nothing as the trucks are off the road and the drivers are peaceful. Other unions along the corridor are backing the drivers and the dockers’ union in Mombasa has threatened to cease handling the company’s trucks.
The company has applied for a court order to force a return to work and is reported to be issuing letters to drivers threatening to dismiss them. ITF general secretary Steve Cotton has written to Agility Logistics warning that such actions risked leading to other transport unions along the corridor being sucked into an avoidable dispute, and urged the company to enter into negotiations with the Kenya Long Distance Truck Drivers & Allied Workers Union (KLDTDAWU) to resolve the matter.
ITF Africa regional secretary Joe Katende said: “These truckers are being driven to exhaustion and all they want is union recognition to represent and protect their rights.
“Here in Nairobi, the ITF has already seen evidence of solidarity action preparations from the Mombasa dockers and road transport unions in other countries of the northern corridor of East Africa. The ITF has also alerted unions in Agility Logistics in other countries around the world about this anti-union employer behaviour designed to defeat the constitution of the republic of Kenya and ILO international labour standards.”
The ITF has been supporting unions in all these countries to work together and protect drivers who have to make these punishing and often dangerous long distance runs responsible for fatal accidents due to fatigue. Drivers also suffer from long border delays, experience police harassment and have to deal with customs officials seeking bribes and notoriously anti-union trucking companies. The ITF has set up wellness clinics along the corridor to provide health information about HIV/AIDS, a major health risk for long distance drivers. And it has introduced a northern corridor card which many driver union members now carry and use to seek union assistance in a country if they are in trouble.
In this film clip KLDTDAWU leader Roman Waema says, “These innocent drivers you see here, who are in protest, are being treated as criminals, and are being forcefully asked to take theses truck off the roadside. We would like to know whether the law will be applied or only force is going to be used.”