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Aug 14, 2006

Sanitation workers protest city finance crisis

Story PictureOn Friday, the Belize City Council announced that it was on financial life support, unable to pay millions of dollars owed to the old capital’s sanitation companies. Today, members of those clean up crews took their beef to the street. News Five’s Janelle Chanona has more.

Janelle Chanona, Reporting
This morning, workers of Belize Maintenance Limited gathered on the company compound at the corner of Iguana and Bocotora Streets to complain that they haven?t been paid.

B.M.L. Worker #1
?I need a job, and I can?t go back on the street like first and hustle. So I need my job.?

Janelle Chanona
?How much money is owed to you??

B.M.L. Worker #1
?I don?t know how much money is owed to me, but I know some money is owed to me. Very well enough, so I would really want Mr. Musa to handle Ms. Zenaida, so Ms. Zenaida can handle my boss, so we can keep our jobs.?

B.M.L. Worker #2
?If they don?t pay these people they gonna be right back out on the street robbing people. Is that what they want? The killing gonna come up. Because if you don?t have a job, and if you can?t feed your kid it is gonna lead to you killing somebody, robbing somebody or stealing, so they can?t tell anybody out here that they don?t have no money.?

B.M.L. Worker #3
?I have five kids. Two weh gwen dah high school right now and I haven?t gotten a book or pencil or anything for them yet. We wah we money.?

Lawrence Ellis, Owner B.M.L.
?It has to be done. We can?t sit down. Just like how they can?t sit back and take what they said the government is doing to them, we can?t sit down and take this from them either. We have to do this. Somebody have to give in and somebody have to help out who needs to help out so we can get our money.?

B.M.L. Owner Lawrence Ellis says his company is owed more than one point five million dollars.

Lawrence Ellis
?How can you tell me I can?t get money to pay my workers when you are finding jobs for people. I mean fair is fair. You already committed to us and you get in to new commitments with other people, and I have to tell these workers they can?t get paid. That is not right. If we can?t get paid, we can?t continue to operate. We?ve carried the burden inna the tune of one point seven million dollars, and there are no facilities available to us. The banks no the give money. The workers can?t borrow money for school open, none of their credit union wah lend them money cause they no sure about dey jobs. I can?t help them. They have rent to pay. We have rent to pay. We have a serious financial burden right now.?

B.M.L. employees say they are calling for a meeting with Mayor Zenaida Moya. However by telephone today, Moya maintained that the council?s cash crisis can only be saved by Central Government. Moya is counting on a million dollar bail out by the Belize Tourism Board through the head tax on cruise ship visitors.

Reporting for News Five, I am Janelle Chanona.

The directors of the Belize Tourism Board have scheduled a meeting for Friday morning. But tonight we understand that even if the board agrees to give the City Council money, nothing will happen until a directive from the Ministry of Finance is issued to the B.T.B.’s Tracey Taegar Panton to cut a cheque.

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