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Aug 11, 2006

Belize CitCo comes clean w/ sanitation workers

Story PictureFor weeks, the Belize City Council has publicized the rapidly deteriorating health of its finances but today, the administration claims to be on the brink of bankruptcy. According to Mayor Zenaida Moya, the council has one hundred and forty-eight thousand dollars in cash but more than eighty percent of that is owed just in salaries, leaving squat for anything else. Moya maintains that without money from central government, the future of hundreds of jobs is up in the air.

Zenaida Moya, Mayor, Belize City Council
?We absolutely can not make payments this week. Currently we are in negotiations with them. It?s a tedious process, but we have to do it. Right now as it pertains to the Belize Maintenance contract we are down to twenty-seven percent off. We want to move down to fifty percent. As it pertains to the S.E.L. contract, I haven?t gotten a figure as yet, but as it comes from out sanitation manager, he already sees and has already worked out how it can be reduced to fifty percent off. Whether the S.E.L. owner will go along with that, that?s another story. As it pertains to the Belize Waste Control Limited Contract, that?s another area we have to get into, but we are dealing with these two contracts first. If contractors do not want to go down to fifty percent then that is how we will go the route. We will need to go the road legally. They would force us to go the route legally.?

Alyssa Noble, Reporting
?So its either fifty percent or legal action, that?s basically what it comes down to??

Zenaida Moya
?We cannot sustain these contracts, and I will not jeopardize the operations of the council, our workers here at the Belize City Council. Jeopardize in the terms of the other services that needs to be done to the other areas of the city. I cannot continue to jeopardize that in terms of forcing every single revenue that we collect all of it will be payment of these sanitation contracts, because that is what is happening now. It is not sustainable, it will not be prudent and it will not be wise of this city council to continue in that manner.?

But while Rupert Marin, owner of Sanitation Enterprises Limited says his company will continue to operate as normal … for as long as possible, Belize Maintenance Limited’s Lawrence Ellis says as of today, all his operations are suspended.

Lawrence Ellis, Owner, Belize Maintenance Limited
?I?m a bit disappointed in the way the mayor is expressing herself, because it is not clear that they are up for a negotiation. It is fifty percent or nothing ? like you heard it today. Fifty percent off a contract is ridiculous. You just cannot take fifty percent of the top. I mean my salaries alone right now are more that the fifty percent, but they want to take the contract down and that is something I cannot work with. I have offered the council twenty-seven percent, provided that we renegotiate the scope of work in the contract, and well we haven?t gotten an official response to that. They keep saying fifty percent. Today again we did not get any pay. Because of only receiving ten thousand dollars last week, twenty before and another ten before Belize City Council total outstanding to B.M.L. is one point six-nine million dollars. In less than two years of operation B.M.L. has been carrying the Belize City Council, and we have been basically financing the situation. Considering the amount we have been paid and the money we have been owed the city is still in a satisfactory condition. People are not even acknowledging that. To me both sides are playing politics, and the workers are going to feel. You cannot say on one hand you are going to think about the workers and then talk about cutting fifty percent. That would mean that fifty percent of the workers have to go also, so the workers are going to feel. I informed them today that because I cannot pay them next week we are going to suspended operations until I can collect some money to ensure that they can be paid. They were very annoyed and they said they will organize themselves and they will see if they can pressure the council to pay. Clearly my workers are behind me, they know that I have not been taking advantage of them, and that I?ve done all I could to keep this going, but no more money, we have no more money. They inherited the debt, they inherited the contract and if the contract is unsustainable … I mean that is arguable and that is why I am willing to negotiate. I am willing to negotiate, but for you to just come and say fifty percent or nothing, that?s not negotiation.?

Rupert Marin, Owner, S.E.L
?We have an amicable ? we have a good talking relationship with the city council. They need to explain to deh people that we are going down fifty percent. We wah have di task of selecting fifty percent of our managers, fifty percent of our cleaners. It is not an easy task. Fifty percent is hard for the mayor to handle. How you go to fifty percent is hard for me, because I have to look in these people face and say I have to pick one hundred twenty a unu this month. I know that some of the situations that we are working with everyday. It?s going to be chaotic. I can live with maybe renegotiating down some staff and some of the work, but fifty percent hard. We have a normally high term, this week we had like six resignations. People resign from the system five ? six for the week, so to reduce to thirty or twenty percent no hard. Its just to wait five to six weeks and you will get down to twenty percent of your staff, but the drains deh no get less. It?s not less people using the street dropping litter on the street. The work is still out there to be done.?

Alyssa Noble, Reporting
?How many are you operating on skeletal staff right now??

Rupert Marin
?We di work hundred percent.?

Alyssa Noble
?All these employees are being paid??

Rupert Marin
?Yes. Our payroll runs between forty-five and fifty-two thousand a week. To date just now four o?clock when I run down I got a phone call saying they have released payroll, so all the peace talk weh the happen all of that clear up. Dah no all of them were getting peace payment, some were making noise but dah no. Only one person run dah unno last week and mek noise out of two hundred and forty-five that is not a bad percentage. And he is new so he doesn?t know the system.?

Alyssa Noble
?City Council is your only contract or just a major income earner??

Rupert Marin
?It?s our major income earner. We have other small contracts, but not to sustain two hundred fifty people. We cannot sustain fifty people with the rest of work that we do have.?

Earlier this week, Mayor Moya met with Prime Minister Said Musa and Minister of Local Government Jose Coye to discuss immediate and long term solutions to the council’s financial crisis. Those talks included a cut of the head tax from cruise ship visitors to Belize, but we understand tonight that any monies from B.T.B. have been snagged in the bureaucratic pipelines.

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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