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Aug 17, 2006

Sanitation workers demonstrate for back pay, jobs

Story PictureIt is a controversy that is anything but simple, involving high stakes contracts, complex legal interpretations and, of course, no end of political intrigue. But for the sanitation workers affected by the Belize City Council’s financial crunch it all boils down to one word: money.

B.M.L. Sanitation Workers
?They talk about no money, that?s all I have been hearing … no money. They got money. They find money for other things. Pay the people, give them a raise. These people work hard in the sun hot.?

?I need money. I got nine kids to feed without a father, so I need money. I got a sun that is going to school right now that needs six thirty-three and no job.?

?I am out here because I have children that need to go to school. This is enough, and we have been taking a lot of things already. It is time for them to show what they will do for us and our children.?

?They are creating poverty. We are going to punish. We have children who need to survive. We need our job, and miser prime minister we need our money. Pay Zenaida, so that Zenaida can pay us, we need our job.?

Jacqueline Godwin, Reporting
Once again the sanitation workers of Belize Maintenance Limited were back on the streets demanding their salaries owed to them. For the past two weeks, the employees have not been paid. B.M.L.?s owner Lawrence Ellis says not until the Belize City Council starts paying them for the work they were contracted to do he does not have the finances to pay his employees. Today Ellis says he was still in dialogue with Mayor Zenaida Moya and is hopeful that next week things will return to normal. So for the time being BML continues to suspend all operations.

Lawrence Ellis, Owner, Director, B.M.L.
?There is simply no money available. Even if I would ask the workers to come and work–the job itself carries a cost. There is fuel, the machines, the garbage bags and the tools that they have to use all carry a cost and we simply don?t have the funds to pay for those things right now.?

?I have been advised by the Trade Union Congress that what we should do is to have them come in and sign in everyday. Because at the end of the day I still have to pay them. So that is what we will have to do.?

George Frazier Representative, Trade Union Congress
?This is one of the major planks of the Trade Union Congress to fight for the rights of workers. These people have been wronged and the management can?t just say unu no got no job. They have contracts. Just like the company BML and SEL have contracts and these contracts must be honoured. So we are telling the workers go back every morning to sign in because as an essential service you cannot just go on strike like that you need to give the minister of labour and the labour commissioner twenty-one days notice, while you try to work out things. That is why we are here supporting our workers.?

This morning Ellis briefed the workers on the latest developments. Even though the employees were not given any guarantees when they will be paid or when they can return to the job they were just happy to know that they will still be compensated for the days they have not been working.

Ellis also promised the employees that he will continue to pay their deductions to family Court and Courts Belize Limited until things return to normal.

Following the peaceful demonstration Trade Union Congress representative George Frazier met with mayor Moya at City Hall concerning the renegotiation of contracts between the city council and the sanitation companies.

George Frazier
?Apparently from what we are hearing they are not sustainable. The City Council is facing a lot major financial problems, and as I said ? well government, the prime minister and others have promised to help. So we are lending our efforts in this struggle so that these workers can keep their jobs.?

Sanitation worker, B.M.L.
?They got to do something quick, because school opening next week. So they do anything, they better do it real quick, because some people out here got nine or ten kids. School opening next week and a lot of people don?t even have books or clothes for these kids. So whatever they doing, they better do it real fast.?

Ellis says to date the City Council owes B.M.L. one point seven million dollars, although it has not been confirmed that the Council accepts that figure.

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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