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Jan 10, 2012

Former Belize Maintenance Workers protest at City Hall

The snap termination of a contract sent workers of Belize Maintenance Limited to the streets. This time it’s not over unpaid debts to BML, but it is over the abrupt cancelation of a garbage collection contract, which has been in effect for the past two years. The workers protested in front of City Hall this morning saying they stood to lose their jobs. News Five’s Isani Cayetano was on the frontlines of the protest this morning and has this report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

A handful of sanitation workers, employees of Belize Maintenance Limited, took to the streets of the Old Capital this afternoon not to carry out their respective duties but to express discontent over a recent decision taken by City Hall to cancel an existing contract for garbage collection from hot spots across the city.

Mark Samuels, Driver, BML

Mark Samuels

“We just come outta wah meeting with fu we boss and he di inform we that we wahn lose fu we job because City Council terminate fi he contract without wah notice and I mean to say all ah we out ya soh got family, right, and people bread and butta deh at stake ya.”

Shortly before noon today a fax was transmitted to the management of BML informing them that their services for the disposal of waste from problem areas were no longer needed.  Breach of that agreement, according to Operations Manager Joe Lawrence, may result in the laying off of at least fifteen of his dedicated workmen.

Joe Lawrence, Operations Manager, BML

“Yeah it might be fifteen or more hardworking men who support their families by doing this job.  These are men that come out everyday very early in the morning and do what they have to do.  It’s not a glamorous job, it can be very nasty but these guys come out and do what they have to do to support their families.  Now these people just come along and just cut their legs from beneath them, you know, just suddenly.  It’s just not fair.”

That injustice has seen BML employees demonstrating in front of City Hall for the umpteenth time during consecutive terms of the incumbent city council on a number of infractions that have occurred over the years.  Furthermore, the statement released offered no reason as to why the Belize City Council has decided to break its promise.

Joe Lawrence

Joe Lawrence

“There was no explanation.  There was no reason and we have been doing our jobs.  These guys have been working so hard.  We’ve been doing our jobs everyday, absolutely no reason, no kind of compensation or anything for these guys.  They just are out of a job just like that.”

Isani Cayetano

“My understanding as well is that this was a verbal contract and for whatever reason you guys are saying now that that agreement has been breached.”

Joe Lawrence

“Definitely.  Verbal contracts are binding, I mean, and these people they just breached the contract just like that because they are bigger than us and they can do what they want seemingly.”

Clinton Fitzgibbon

Under the terms of that contract, albeit a spoken arrangement between both parties, BML was receiving an additional twenty thousand dollars monthly for the removal of such refuse.  That money provides an honest income for Clinton Fitzgibbon and Mark Samuels.

Clinton Fitzgibbon, Employee, BML

“Ih throw me off because, you know, this da magga season.  Dehn holidays just gaan and dehn just come een with dat sudden without no notice pan we like dat, you know, and we di do this fu years yo undastand mi. As you know election di come up soon, City Council Election di come up soon and General [Elections] noh deh far so this have to be wah political issue.  Why dehn wah come sudden eena time like this and bring da letter deh fi shut all ah we down just like that?  This da wah political issue.”

Mark Samuels

“We pick up the garbage da di hotspots and di bags weh di people dehn clean di street side and bag up, dat da weh we pick up and apparently dehn noh wahn we do dat no more.  Maybe dehn mussi think dehn mussi di pay di man too much money or dehn mih wahn give it to somebody else.  I noh got no idea da what but I mean to say as far as we concern starting next week we have to look fi job somewhere else.”

According to Lawrence, legal action is being sought in the matter.

Joe Lawrence

“My manager Mr. Ellis, he’s been speaking with the lawyer and we’re gonna see what happens from there, you know.  We definitely need to clear this up and get things straight because it’s not fair to these men that work so hard and have to support their families.”

Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

We tried to get the reaction from Mayor Zenaida Moya but we were told she is out of office.

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