The Truckers Association of Colombia (ACC), which represents around 180,000 truck drivers throughout Colombia, confirmed plans to strike over freight rates, EFE reported Tuesday.
The government intends to introduce free-market reforms that would eliminate the years-old policy of setting minimum freight rates that truckers must earn.
“The strike is confirmed. It starts at midnight [Wednesday] night,” said Pedro Aguilar, head of the ACC.
The truckers want the government to maintain a table of fixed rates, ensuring that all truck drivers charge the same amount per trip depending on distance and load volume, while also demanding a 14.7% increase in these prices to cover operating costs.
“The government does not want to understand, or has not understood, or is unwilling to agree to our petition against the structure of costs in relation to the increases that have occurred in the last four years regarding vehicle operating costs,” said Ricardo Virviescas, secretary general of the ACC.
Coffee exporters will be among the sectors most affected by the strike, explains the WSJ, as they are dependent almost exclusively upon truck drivers to transport their coffee beans to shipping ports.
Jorge Botero, a former trade minister and now head of National Coffee Exporters Association (Asoexport), agreed that a strike “would be very serious for us.”
He noted that it is the first “major, confrontational challenge” that President Santos’ administration has had to face since assuming power.
“It’s going to be very interesting to see if the administration remains firm in its position on eliminating cargo rates,” added Botero.
The strike could still be called off, however, as organizers remain in talks with Transport Ministry officials in the hope of resolving the issue.
Observers believe that the government chose to scrap the rates at this particular time due to the sharp increase in truck rates, as a result of the rainy season, that effectively makes them redundant for the time being.