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Jun 7, 2011

Market Vendors on the verge of industrial action

Not far away at the Michael Finnegan Market, things were also heating up. For months, there has been a myriad of problems that have pitted vendors against Belize City Councilor, Phillip Willoughby who has responsibility for the markets. Some have been ironed out, others persist and new issues keep popping up. When we headed out to the area today; tension was building up for the umpteenth time and we found retailers up in arms that wholesalers on the outside were underselling them and are now seeking more space in the already congested area to do their business. News Five’s Isani Cayetano has an update on the market woes.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

An association of vendors operating outside of the newly built Michael Finnegan Market was formed this morning amidst the chaos of business being conducted within the area.  Since its inception thirty-five years ago there has been contention amongst merchants competing for the sale of retail and commercial produce.  At the heart of the argument is the Belize City Council; namely councilor Phillip Willoughby, whose responsibility it is to ensure that vendors carry on harmoniously.  Despite CitCo’s attempt to broker an agreement between wholesalers and retailers residents of Bocotora Street, a tiny enclave in the middle of Hiccatee and Iguana streets, are none too pleased with business being done in their vicinity.

Richard Lesli

Richard Leslie, Resident

“We don’t have no peace in the residence because they [the vendors] have these dollies that they move their vegetables with all night long, from five o’clock in the evening ‘til maybe ten o’clock in the morning, eleven o’clock in the morning and we can’t live with the noise.  They make a lot of noise, you know.”

While noise pollution is a separate issue altogether there are also complaints of the amount of garbage being generated by the outside vendors that goes uncollected.  Nonetheless they proceeded to compile a list of demands that, according to Willoughby and several retailers, were designed to undermine competition.

Oscar Pollard Jr.

Oscar Pollard Jr., Secretary, Farmers-Vendors Association

“The issue of the raise from ten dollars for each vehicle to fifteen dollars without notice, the vendors do not agree to pay fifteen dollars.  Anyway, there is a solution to every problem.  The solution that the vendors came up with [is that] if the area is marked and given security they would agree to pay the fifteen dollars.  The vendors, we agree to pay fifteen dollars plus it must be in writing to the legal group that will be representing this group.  That’s the demand of the vendors.”

According to Willoughby the forceful requests being made by the Farmer-Vendors Association are implausible.

Phillip Willoughby

Phillip Willoughby, Councilor Responsible for Markets

“Their demands are far-fetched and you heard it yourself and any rational, thinking individuals who are listening to the statements and proposals that they want to bring to the city council is somewhat ridiculous to a certain extent by and large.”

Echoing that sentiment rather loudly is Ana Cowo, a vendor inside the market who is directly affected by wholesalers who have decided to also retail fruits and vegetables.

Ana Cowo

Ana Cowo, Vendor, Michael Finnegan Market

“Dehn can’t have dehn own way and dehn wah do whateva dehn wahn do out ya cause dehn deh out ya.  I noh think ih fair cause we pay fi we rent to and we pay whole ah three hundred and fifty, two fifty a month.  Every day we could pay ten dollars if we want, if we noh want pay wah month deh.  So dehn cyan’t come do weh dehn want and hambug fi we business een deh cause deh everyday deh.  We di deh from Sunday to Sunday and dehn only ah come Monday and Tuesday and Friday and Saturday.  That da di only days when deh wah come so, me noh agree with weh dehn di deal wid.  I noh agree wid it.”

Also in disagreement with the idea of wholesalers-turned-retailers is Edith Brakeman, a long time vendor who does business within the market.

Edith Brakeman

Edith Brakeman, Vendor, Michael Finnegan Market

“Dis mawnin we buy cabbage fi eighty-five cents a pound.  When I get out deh dis mawnin and I ask di bwai how much a pound fi di cabbage [ih say] sixty-five cents.  Dehn di hambug we een deh because we have to di sell fi mek wah profit fi one twenty-five ah pound.  When people get out deh people noh wahn buy fi we cabbage cause dehn holla out ya have fi sixty-five cents so weh dehn try do wid we?”

Among the list of demands is a return to the use of the canal side from Kings Street to the Dean Street Bridge.

Oscar Pollard Jr.

“Vendors have pointed out that Hiccattee Street is not enough for the amount of vendors which is about sixty-five, hence the reason for the use of the canal side.  Flooding is a problem for Hiccatee Street during the rainy season and these are the situation and the problems in respect to Hiccatee Street.”

As it regards Bocotora Street however, a number of vendors have decided to set up fruit stalls in the area despite an existing restriction.

Richard Leslie

“I moved the market from in front of my house already.  We already did that through Mr. Coye, Joseph Coye.  He was the mayor at that time and he gave us the right for our freedom in our neighborhood but now it seems to me that they want to bring back the market in our neighborhood and we noh down with that at all.”

Councilor Willoughby has agreed to meet with the newly formed Farmers-Vendors Association which has elected Alvin Hyde Jr. as its president to discuss the demands being made by its membership.  There is no word as yet whether the city council will accede to those requests. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

According to Willoughby, an agreement can only be struck if the wholesalers and retailers agree on prices and business hours.

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4 Responses for “Market Vendors on the verge of industrial action”

  1. Rod says:

    No leadership in the country this is why there is caos in the country no leadershippppppppppppppp

  2. neva again says:

    this crowd can’t even fix the market and we expect them to fix the economy?? Market, butane,sugar, onions, bus industry crisis evrywhere, this crowd is clueless.

  3. Earl Grey says:

    AND……..HERE IS yet….. ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF INCOMPETENCE AND MISMANAGEMENT!!!!

  4. Sense says:

    Mein People in this country FACEY and FACEY bad Squatters want tek land weh da no fi dem, Bus operators no want share routes fi wah opportunity fi better service and Now MARKET vendors want whole sale and retail as they please without paying Rent. Goodness and as Government try put down their foot and set rules and proper managment first thing that will happen is a damn STRIKE and complains that government di chance them i no get it. BOTH PUP AND UDP go through the same thing all the time. Don’t be surprised if the vendors start wah protest led by Moses and Shakron soon mein Belizean People spoil bad.

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