Following a six-hour “awareness action” staged by local truckers earlier this week, Prime Minister Rosevelt Skerrit and Minister of Public Works and Transportation Cassani Laville, are expected to meet with the local truckers today to discuss the way forward.
On Monday, November 15th 2021, members of the Tipper Truckers Association of Dominica (TTAD), as well as other local truckers lined up their vehicles under the canfield cliff from 5 am to 11 am, to “peacefully raise awareness” of what they say is the non-inclusion of local truckers in the construction of major projects on the island.
Calling on the government to intervene, President of the TTAD Anton Laville, expressed the association’s disappointment over what he labelled as a “collapsed” industry and said local truckers are doing everything to have this issue resolved amicably.
“So this is not political. We are just here to raise awareness on our plights because hundred of truckers are suffering here in our country; we have been very peaceful..we are disappointed in what is going on; we have done everything that we are advised to do and what we are doing here today, we are taking the initiative as an association to get things done because if we do not stand up and take action in this country, our country will be taken from us,” he said to Dominica News Online (DNO) at the truckers’ gathering.
Laville said while there are many projects in the country that local truckers can get engaged in, the majority of the time foreigners are given priority over locals.
“It is always a fight for us to get employed and I ask myself why is it that we as Dominicans we should be fighting to be employed in our own country when we have projects being undertaken and we have foreigners coming here walking through the airport and they are employed the very next day when we, the Dominican truckers, are willing to work at a reasonable rate, “ he complained.
The issue of the lack of employment for truckers spans over a decade, but according to Treasurer of the TTAD, Everson Magloire, the situation has worsened following the passage of Hurricane Maria and fears are mounting that the members are nearing the end of their tether.
According to him, various truckers were ready to invest following the 2017 disaster as there were many rivers to be cleared, but “their dreams were shattered” when the Dominica Strong trucks arrived in Dominica.
” If that could happen to us at that time, what’s going to happen to us when they begin the airport?” the 20-year veteran trucker asked.
Magloire said the banks and other lending institutions have lost confidence in the industry, not because of their willingness to pay, “but because of our inability to pay.”
“The TTAD treasurer laments the demise of truckers who he says receive bank loans in anticipation of such projects but are unable to repay those loans because “it the big companies which the government has aligned itself” that get the projects.
“They are not regulated; they re not given a guideline of engagement; they’re not told you must employ a certain percentage, so that causes our investments to stay at deadstock and that is why we are here, to raise awareness to National Bank to the credit unions and the other banks my fellow truckers have invested from. We want the world to know that we are being unfairly treated in our own country….and that mental stress we are going through is not fair for us as Dominicans,” Magloire declared.
He went called on the minister of public works and transportation to “shake up the system” on their behalf, since, according to him, they have heeded the advice given by him in the past, but they’re not seeing any progress.
In a statement sent by the public works minister some hours after the truckers’ gathering, he noted that his ministry has been in continuous dialogue with the executive members of the TTAD on their concerns about jobs for truckers on major infrastructural projects.
“We are sensitive to the issues they currently face,” he said. “Since October 20th, 2020 we have been meeting and exchanging letters all to resolve some of their issues. On the specific issue of employment on the East Coast Road Project, Layou East Road, we have met with the works contractor on a few occasions to discuss issues confronting the truckers,” Laville stated. “From my engagement with him today, he has promised to meet with the truckers as soon as next week. I personally reached out to the Vice President today who agreed to meet with us again on Thursday. We believe that these joint discussions will result in more progressive outcomes.”
Minister Laville highlighted the importance of local truckers seeing the government as development partners and committed “to doing our best to provide all safeguards and opportunities to allow them to thrive and provide for their families.”
He said the previous proposals made to truckers will be reviewed and discussed at today’s meeting.