The 14-day sit-in staged in Hodeidah continuesTruck drivers ramble underfoot [Archives:2003/639/Local News]

June 5 2003

Yemen Times Staff
Hodeidah Bureau

A sit-in has been staged for about two weeks by truck drivers affiliated to the transportation office in Hodeidah, Matnah area, Bani Matar, 30 km to the west of the capital city Sanaa.
Truck drivers claim that the Transportation Ministry has refused to implement the Prime Minister's directives to cancel the individual permissions given to some of truck drivers working at the Hodeidah Harbor.
“During our meeting with him, the Prime Minister gave clear orders in response to the truck drivers' demands and exempt drivers from permissions,” Mr. Abdullah Ashelali, the Secretary General of the General Union for Telecommunication and Labor declared.
Mr. Ashelali added that the ministry has refused the Premier's directives and the only thing that has been done is set up an investigation committee for those licenses.
“The 2-week sit-in has partially paralyzed the transportation movement at the Hodeidah Harbor,” Hodeidah Harbor General Manager, Ahmed Ali Ba Obaid said.
The sit-in was in response to the need to issue daily work permissions to some truck owners and drivers to transport goods and commodities from the harbor.
Thousands of truck drivers have to wait for their turn to come for a month or may be more.
Aaccording to the drivers, this measure will harm the welfare of the drivers and their economic conditions. Meanwhile, a serious dispute emerged a month ago between the transportation office and some merchants for controlling the transportation movement at the harbor.
This has been followed by the issuance of daily work permissions for some drivers who have advantages over other workmates and the result is that they have been held all the cards by traders.
The estimated number of those drivers has reached to 10,000 and most have worked there for more than a decade.
With their trucks, they have been entrusted with transporting goods and foodstuff from the harbor to traders throughout the country.
The reason behind the recent procedures as Mr. Ashelali said is to no longer need those drivers who have served at the harbor most of their lifetime. “But there should be alternatives. The transportation movement has been going from bad to worse,” Mr. Ashelali added.
Drivers have been obliged to pay financial sums to finance essential material, despite the governments' orders to uplift government financing to cover the cost of this material.
Drivers have also been complaining about some of the transportation law articles, which are expected to be reviewed at the parliament.

Conflicting claims
On his part, Mr. Ahmed Ali Ba Obaid, the Hodeidah Harbor General Manager told the Yemen Times that there haven't been any unjust procedures taken against those drivers.
“Truck drivers enjoy their rights and they have duties that should be fulfilled. The issue is relative to the demand and supply. Those who get permissions from the transportation ministry to work daily without stopping have already offered excellent transportation services and with low prices as well,” Mr. Obaid further explained.
On the other hand, Mr. Abdullah Ashelali denied what Mr. Obaid said and claimed that the permissions have been issued not for services offered by those drivers, but for other considerations as stated earlier.
Local observers see that the stage-in might continue during the coming few days causing damage to the trade industry in the region.
The transportation office manager Mr. Abdulrahman al-Kibsi and his deputy are still held behind bars at the Hodeidah Security Department Prison ever since the start of the sit-in.