President of the Tippers Truckers Association of Dominica (TTAD) Anton Laville is expressing optimism about the way forward for local tuckers, following a meeting with Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit and other government officials.
On November 15, members of the TTAD, as well as other local truckers staged a six-hour “awareness action” by lining up their vehicles under the canfield cliff, to highlight 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, Laville said the association was disappointed about the “collapsed” truckers industry and local truckers were doing everything to have this issue resolved amicably.
A few days later- November 18- following a meeting with a few truckers and contractors, the prime minister announced the establishment of a committee to propose rates that are “fair and reasonable” for the services offered by those in the industry.
Laville has since welcomed this development, telling Dominica News Online (DNO) that the last rate review for the trucking industry was conducted in 1983, therefore, members are looking forward to operating under new rates.
The committee, which will be chaired by the Minister of Public Works, will comprise representatives of the truckers association, the local contractors association or grouping, representatives of two of the larger foreign owned contracting firms in Dominica and an internationally recognized and respected agency. Its work will begin on Monday, November 22nd and is expected to submit its report by December 15th 2021.
One of the committee’s specific tasks the TTAD president says he’s most excited about, is the upcoming audit of available trucks and capacity in Dominica, which the prime minister has said will guide his government’s policy in granting permission to contracting firms to import vehicles or labour into the country.
According to Laville, the awarding of contracts to foreigners has long been an issue for local truckers. He therefore believes that such an undertaking will allow for greater inclusion of those involved in the sector.
“This is very important for us because one of the points that we pushed across to him [the Prime Minister] is that we should get special privileges in terms of the projects that are being undertaken in Dominica, meaning that when they start, let’s say, the international airport, whoever is the foreign contractor that gets that bid, then we can indicate to them the number of trucks and excavators on island so they won’t have to import more, but instead bring in the equipment which is not readily available on island,“ he explained.
The veteran trucker told DNO that the association has not been given a concise response on how members will be provided with immediate employment, hence, this will be one of the main topics for discussion when truckers meet again with the prime minister early next week.
“We are hoping that we can get some satisfaction from that situation going forward. However, I must say that seeing that the prime minister has reached out to us, we are allowing him some time to work on behalf of the truckers seeing that he has given us his word,” Laville said. “So we’re looking forward to that special protection from the government and it looks like they are willing to work with us so that we do not have those problems that we are faced with right now moving forward.”
In an attempt to return “viability and profitability” to the trucking sector in Dominica, Prime Minister Skerrit has also requested that the truckers, as an association, submit to him, a proposal for consideration for a special regime of concessions to help improve their fleet of vehicles to offer something similar to what was done for those in the tourism sector.
As to the future of local truckers, the TTAD president is optimistic that things will improve and vows to continue to advocate for legislation that will protect local truckers’ rights.
“The prime minister has said that he will address our concerns and I am assuring you that we, the truckers, we’re gonna keep pressing so that truckers and the local contractors in Dominica get the special protection that we need. It happens in other countries, why, not in Dominica?” he questioned.
Laville has also made known that the association will be reaching out to other local contractors, as well as forging greater ties with the Builders and Contractors Association (BCAD) as he believes they should all come together to advance the construction sector in Dominica.
He urged other truckers to join the TTAD pointing out, “there is unity in strength and if all the voices come together, it will be louder.”