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Aug 6, 2014

Female Sanitation Workers Arraigned in Magistrates’ Court

So in a nutshell…G.O.B. will assume payments to all one hundred and seventy BML workers. When the contract expires in January, the City Council will hire all workers. Charges of littering, loitering and taking part in an illegal public meeting will go away. Tickets of five hundred dollars for littering will go away too. All that was revealed this evening, but this morning workers of BML stood outside the court awaiting arraignment. Even then, there were rumours of high level discussions in the works. Mike Rudon was in front of the court where uncertainty, frustration and anger were still in full effect. Here’s that story.

 

Mike Rudon, Reporting

Nine o’clock in the morning of day two in front of the Magistrate’s Court. Twenty-workers, all women, were formally arraigned on Tuesday for littering, loitering and taking part in an unlawful public meeting. The rest now await their time in the court system. The heat outside the courtroom is intense, as it was yesterday when workers stood outside from nine in the morning until five in the evening. But today the punishment is cut short. At ten o’clock, there is word of a reprieve.

 

Delroy Herrera

Delroy Herrera, Activist

“Presently, just a while ago, I was called by one of the officers in charge and he explained to me that his high commanding officer called him just a while ago and said that they are not going to proceed with any criminal charges at this time against the workers who took place in the mini-protest in front of the City Hall. So as of now, he is saying that workers can go home, and if the Police decide after the negotiations that they will proceed then the Police officers will get in contact with us individually. So as of now you all are free to go pending negotiations with the higher people in charge.”

 

Reporter

“What did they say about the persons who got charged yesterday?”

 

Delroy Herrera

“He did not mention anything about the persons who got charged yesterday. He said the workers who are out here. Instead of having us stay out here and the sun is hot, we can leave because he just got his word from his high command.”

 

That news was greeted with cheers, but also with the awareness that this is just a temporary reprieve from the inconvenience of a court appearance. There is still the pressing matter of an unpaid debt and a contract that very likely will not be renewed. The workers are not happy, not yet.

 

Delroy Herrera

“This is not a victory for the workers. This is just a hump that has been jumped. When you jump a hump, there is road ahead. It’s not a dead end. So what we will do now is that we will move and two o’clock this afternoon the workers will organize again at BML office and we will plan a way forward since we have our permit and everything. We’ll try to stay within the scope of law at this time.”

 

Kirk Burgess

Kirk Burgess, Sanitation Worker

“We are Belizean. We are not come here. We born here. We have equal rights also. They say we did unjustifiable things, but I do not see it that way. We are just a little angry and miserable and frustrated. But big and serious, it’s our only daily bread. We don’t have nowhere else that we can go and ask for a job. We can’t go to Brodies and ask for a job. We can’t go to Romac’s and ask for a job. We can’t go nowhere. We are the cleaners of this city. We keep this city clean, for everybody, old and young. So I’d encourage the Mayor and Government of Belize to take everything into consideration that is happening here and have a little compassion and heart.”

 

Donald Jones, Sanitation Worker

“Dey people done see weh deh go on. If the elections deh come and you deh pressure di people weh deh clean up the city….bredda, we hafto tek care a fu we families pon one hundred and sixty-nine dollars. Dat is food, water, rent, cable – cause we dah people too…we wah live good. Some a wi no even have table…weh yu tink a cable? Dey gat everything inna dey house. Now you are telling me…who are we fu mek dey people treat we like this…we da only human being Mike.”

 

Donald Jones

The word outside the courtroom is that the Prime Minister had decided to intervene in the situation, and all the high level players in the game were in discussions on a way forward. But at that point this morning, it is still just speculation.

 

Donald Jones

“The Prime Minista intervene it looks like…to me it looks like he have more sense than the whole court-house, and he probably sit them down and instruct them and let them know…elections deh come, da only dem could feel hurted by this…because if the Belizean people could open dey eyes they could plainly see…they deh victimize we…and they deh brutalize we.”

 

Nineteen workers have been given a reprieve in regards to the charges, but as they left the court there was no word on the five hundred dollar tickets issued to them, payable within fifteen days. Mike Rudon for News Five.

 

We note that while the workers have benefitted from the full intervention of the government, and CitCo has benefitted from a central government bailout, BML is left with bills. The matter of the nineteen weeks arrears is still very much on the table. And, since G.O.B. is only paying the company thirty-five thousand dollars to cover salaries, BML will have to foot the bill for its own equipment, machinery and operating costs.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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