On the re-opening of SLPP Office … “We would never encourage violence” John Benjamin...

Sierra Leone News: Committee on Transport to probe into Drivers strike action

A Member of the Committee on Transport and Aviation, Honourable Ibrahim Kamara, Constituency 063 Karena district, on Monday 4 March 2019 condemned the strike action of Drivers, which led to the disruption of movement of Sierra Leoneans. On the early hours of Monday 4 March 2019 thousands of people including school going pupils were seen stranded along the streets and roads in Freetown struggling to make their ways to school, offices, market among others. Between the hours of 6 in the morning to 12 mid day if not all but most of the vehicles seen plying the routes leading to the central part of Freetown from both east and west end were private cars, government vehicles, Kekeh and motor bikes. This made life very difficult for pupils who were seen walking along the main roads covering miles to reach their various schools, as most of them disclosed they were caught by surprise by the drivers strike actions. A school pupil by the name of Aminata maintained she normally waits around 6:30 in the morning for transportation from Hastings to Patton Street before boarding another vehicle to her school at Brookfileds. She had been standing for over an hour without seeing any commercial bus, mini bus (poda poda) or even taxi, adding she was rescued by a man who gave her ride to east end police for her not to be too late for classes. According to the Police Media Head, Superintendent Brima Kamara, on his Facebook page, the motor owners Association decided to call off the strike action after a successful stakeholders meeting held at the Ministry of Transport and Aviation on Monday 4 March 2019. He said, the Union informed the gathering that the Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority is implementing or rather implementing a ban on the non-use of metal seats on omnibuses (poda poda vans), which they (the Union) consider to be unfavorable to their business at the moment. Superintendent Kamara said after extensive deliberations, the meeting resolved that the strike action was wrong, as it did not follow the laid down procedures prescribed for any group or entity intending to embark on strike action. The drivers claims as stated by many drivers spoken to were that the police are extorting so much monies from them in the form of booking and if they fail to comply on a particular day the said Driver or vehicle will be arrested for no good reason. Alpha Conteh a Poda poda van driver said on a daily basis he will spend close to Le 70,000 just on booking to police officers, which according to him is responsible for drivers to run their vans half way to their prescribed destinations. In response to this unfortunate situation, Hon Ibrahim Kamara, said the issue caught him by surprise and as a Committee it took them by surprise also, citing the Industrial Law that makes provision for a Group, Union to give notice before going into strike action. He maintained strike action should be followed after series of consultation with the relevant authorities prove fruitless followed by 21 days strike notice, which according to him never happened on this issue as he never saw any notice from the Driver’s Union relating to strike action. According to him he did some random interviews with Drivers at Allen Town, Calaba Town and even Ferry Junction and their allegations were against police/Traffic Warden extortion of monies from them at various points on a daily basis, which forced them to go on the strike to attract government attention. Hon Kamara said he gathered from their response that Civic education is really needed across the country as most of the Drivers were not aware about the existence of the Committee of Transport and other relevant institutions to make their complaints. “The Transport Committee vehemently condemn the strike action of the Drivers. Their behavior is not good for the development of the country,” he said, appealing to them to go back and do what is expected of them as their concerns will be fully addressed by the Committee to see how best they can put a stop to such action. He said on the allegation against the police, he maintained he also spoke with some police who he will not disclose their identities, and they informed him about a system being operated by SLRSA to impound vehicles with metal seats as they have given them (drivers) very long time to do changes. According to him the police further told him the drivers intend to use the strike action to deviate the public attention on the real issues of failing to comply with instructions and they as police are merely executing their function of impounding defaulting vehicles. Hon Kamara called on the police to see how best they can rebrand their image as all sectors are pointing fingers at Police of being corrupt, citing the bus and other vans that do not have metal seats but also observe the strike action which clearly shows there is something wrong somewhere. He maintained even the Kekeh and bike riders are complaining about harassment from the police and Traffic Wardens, assuring he will see how best they can convince the Committee on Transport to engage the transport sectors including Kekeh, motor bike and motor drivers to see how best they can solve the issue within the shortest possible time.

By Alhaji M Kamara

Tuesday March 05, 2019.

Comments are closed.