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#451021 - 11/13/12 02:12 PM Waste Control Pickets City Hall
Marty Offline
Could Belize City be facing another garbage crisis? That seems to be a distinct possibility after Belize Waste control went on a go slow today.

The company which collects the city's garbage says it cannot afford to pay a full complement of staff because the city owes them half a million dollars in arrears.

So their workers picketed city hall today - and here's what the assistant manager told us about why they had to do it:...

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"We are protesting this because the mayor owe us money that we worked the whole year for."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, how long have you nor been able to receive any money?"

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"This is from August this year 2012."

Daniel Ortiz
"How are you surviving right now without being paid?"

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"We haven't got paid for a whole week; we need our monies right now."

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"We work hard and we have to care of our family."

Daniel Ortiz
"How long have you not been paid sir?"

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"11 months now they haven't paid the company and we need our "cheedaz""

Daniel Ortiz
"For those 11 months the company hasn't been able to pay you guys?"

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"You said it, we need our pay to take care of our kids because we can go back to what we were doing before we got this job - simple."

Daniel Ortiz
"I heard you guys saying that you don't want to turn into any illegal crime in order to feed your family."

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"That why we got a job and work hard just to avoid corruption and not going to jail."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, how long have you not been paid?"

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"11 months since the company hasn't gotten money."

Daniel Ortiz
"What has those 11 months been for you not getting paid?"

Employee of Belize Waste Control
"Ups and downs, sometime after work we go and wash cars or chop somebody yard to put food on the table for our children."

George Lamb, GM, Belize Waste Control
"It's about close to 40 of our employees. We had to release them earlier due to financial difficulties. we have not been paid by City Council close to 3 months or maybe a little bit more if I want to be exact. For some unexplained reason and I believe probably the council fell off its financial cliff. The Mayor has not been true to us in making payment to our company, that's why we are here. The Mayor has not been true to his word. I talked to him personally back in September and he made a commitment to me that something would have been done, I am still waiting. I have to make payments to my creditors. I have to pay my employees; Christmas is right around the corner. I am certain that the Mayor ensures that he gets his weekly pay as the week is over. Nobody can work for about 3 months without getting paid. We have trucks working, we are working with the limited resource we have. We understand our role in all this. It's not a fight that we want. We are committed to we ensure that the environment of Belize City is preserved and that's one of the driving force behind what we do every day, it's not all money, but we must pay our creditors. To put fuel in those vehicles we must pay our creditors. For those employees we must pay them. That what it's all about - we need to make our payments. We are at the end of our rope; we cannot extend ourselves further than this. It's amazing that we are still here - this is why we release our workers earlier today because come Friday I will not be able to make payments to any of my employees."

Of course, there are two sides to every story. And the mayor says while they may not be current with their payments - the fact is that the sanitation companies have exorbitant fees:...

Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City
"Because of the nature of their contract we have a standing relationship with them - we have an open door policy - we communicate with them in terms of the monitoring of the picking up of garbage. If it was a difficulty - it didn't have to turn out in this particular fashion. Say what they will but in terms of individual workers - I don't think individual workers - all the signs look alike - people are mobilizing, they mobilize at the same time. I mean that's their right, its every person's right to protest, it's part of a democratic process and I don't grudge anyone. An employee can't be owed monies from employer. If the Waste Control is not paying their employees then they go to Waste Control - we don't have a contract with the individual person. These persons are protesting our building, somebody have had to tell them that there was a difficulty in terms of payment or those kinds of issues. Those people are not out there of their own accord."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, but the fact of the matter remains that these people are hardworking employees."

Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City
"I have no doubt that the people are hardworking employees. I am very concern and sad that individual persons who are workers and bread winners for their family have to put in the middle of something like theirs. The reality of the matter is that the sanitation contracts are a significant burden for the city, it's a reality. It's a significant amount of our outlays go to that. What we've been doing is that we've been trying to negotiate with these people to get these burdens to manageable limits, but the reality is that those contracts are something which is unsustainable for the city. We cannot continue to pay these significant outlays for something which is essentially is an obligation which could be handle differently."

"We pay $78,000 every week to one sanitation contract and $55,000 every week to the other. The law says that our obligation as a city is to deal with the infrastructure, the streets and the drains - that's what I am doing, I am dealing with streets and drains. We are putting in place measures so that the sanitation - we could easily bear this. One of the things that we are doing is the residential garbage fee."

Daniel Ortiz
"Sir, nobody is arguing with you that the money that the City Council is using is not being used properly in terms of this mandate but at the same time these people need to be paid and their company need to be paid as well."

Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City
"What am I supposed to do then? We have a situation, where these people are not being paid. I made 3 payments."

Daniel Ortiz
"It's 3 out of 11 sir."

Darrell Bradley, Mayor of Belize City
"Hold on, you don't know the record of the City Council, so don't speak for the record. I know because I check it every single day. I know every single creditor especially major creditor of the City Council - I track that. I ensure that we never go anything unreasonable, we are not beyond anywhere - beyond last year's outlays and if they could have done it under the last administration - we are not 11 payments. If they could have done it under the last administration - the relationship that they had with the last mayor - I don't see why they couldn't extend that same courtesy to us."

And so, the standoff remains tonight. The City Council has issued a statement saying that it has deployed all its Sanitation employees assisted by a team from its Works Department along with necessary equipment to collect all residential garbage on the Northside. The Council will provide the same services for Southside residents tomorrow.

And so tomorrow, Southside Residents are can put out their garbage as usual. The council says this arrangement will remain in effect until further notice.

For historical context we note that Garbage problems have been chronic in November with picketing by Waste Control employees in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Typically arrears accrue at this time of year because the City's revenues are in a downswing until early December.

Channel 7


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#451142 - 11/14/12 01:43 PM Re: Waste Control Pickets City Hall [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Waste Control Continues Standoff With City

If you live on the Southside of Belize City - there's a fair chance that your garbage wasn't picked up today.

And that's because the standoff between the City Council and Belize Waste Control continues - and is going into its third day tomorrow. Both sides are blaming the other - which is typical of any dispute. But, tonight there is a wrinkle - the City is warning Waste Control that it is in breach of its contract.

We got both sides of the story, while looking at the bigger picture of a slowdown in garbage collection:...

Jules Vasquez reporting
Today 7 Garbage trucks were parked in the Belize Waste Control compound. The company's operations are at a virtual standstill - and it shows on the city's southside where it was garbage day and bins and bags were full to overflowing to falling on the street.

We did see one truck out but it was collecting commercial not residential garbage. Tony Griffith - the owner of Waste Control says they simply could not afford continue operating at a loss:

Anthony Griffith, Owner - Belize Waste Control
"This thing can't continue like this. We are not getting paid. We got to bore the cost at serving the city for so long, the money going to dry up. I took out a loan out already, $85,000 loan to keep this operation going."

Jules Vasquez
"Are you trying to hold the city hostage?"

Anthony Griffith
"Hell no, nothing like that. If that was the case we would have been out a long time ago. If that was the case I wouldn't have borrowed money to keep this operation going. Two weeks ago these tanks were completely dry - bot a drop of fuel in them. That has never happen to us before."

But what has happened before is this - in fact it happened in four of the last five years. And that's because every year in November the city council's coffers go dry - and it accumulates weeks upon weeks of arrears.

Jules Vasquez
"Now it can be argued, man all you need is to show some patience - you know the municipal bond would be floated soon. You know that City Council will soon receive trade license in its revenue."

Anthony Griffith
"Well then come and talk to us, communicate to us - this is the problem."

Jules Vasquez
"It is what it is, there is no money to pay you and there will be money at the end of the month and you just have to wait."

Anthony Griffith
"Tell us officially."

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"I indicated to him in terms of our timeline - we are coming in our high season - people are starting to pay property taxes. When we hit the month of December, that's a high period for us - December, January, and February are our greatest income streams. I indicated this to him and he knows this because this is something that has been going on for years that the City Council always reconciles their balances with the sanitation contracts in the months December, January and February."

And it seems a communication breakdown is one of the central issues in this dispute:

Anthony Griffith
"We tried to call him and never responded. We'd be writing letters every week, he never responded to one. We have proof that they sign for letters that they received them but never responded to one. The main thing is communication - he doesn't communicate with us nor the City Administrator - none of them do."

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"I spoke to Mr. Griffith by phone last week. I made certain promises to him in terms of payment; he made certain promises to me in terms the non-interruption of sanitation. I don't know where this thing came up that the Mayor and the City Council are inaccessible."

But Griffith did speak to the Mayor on the fourth of November - where they reached an understanding, which oddly is now the source of so much misunderstanding:

Anthony Griffith
"When I spoke to the Mayor on the 14th - he told me what I wanted to hear - to get back to work, which we did and he made promises that he never intended to keep. It was 12 weeks he owed us for. He sent us a payment for two and half weeks which I showed you the cheque for. He made a promise to he, he spoke to me and said that he will inform the city administrator to double on the payment to us starting last week, but he never did."

Jules Vasquez
"He said that you made a commitment to pay 3 weeks, but he is saying that you promise that in the subsequent weeks you would double up."

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"Understanding one thing; I am not going to have a debate over this media or in person."

Jules Vasquez
"You are not going back and forth because you will lose on the facts. The facts are you didn't pay what you promise to pay and you didn't live up to your commitment going forward which is that you would double up."

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"If he says that and you believe that then that's fine."

Jules Vasquez
"So it's untrue?"

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"I am not going to say anything. I am going to say that I made certain commitments to him over the phone and we lived up to those commitments."

The disagreement seems to come down to 26 thousand dollars - a part payment - which the city had committed to pay. The cheque may have been made, but it was never collected - and now with the protest and strike it's been rescinded. Now, Waste Control says that is all it needs to move forward:

Anthony Griffith
"If they would just give us something like that half a week payment - that would help us tremendously in payroll. I can't work these guys for a week and they come to me Friday and I can't pay them."

Jules Vasquez
"Is this stage just embarrassed the Mayor in the week of his bond prospectus launch?"

Anthony Griffith
"Hell no. I try to get in touch with the Mayor over the weekend. I even call Joe his father to try and get in touch with him. Joe wasn't here Friday to try and get in touch with him to work out something. Try sit down and talk; this half payment that they have for us will really help tremendously."

But its money they don't seem likely to get right now since the city has adopted a hardline:

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"We consider their actions doing that constitute a material breach of contract and we are looking at this situation very seriously as it relates as to how we would respond to the action in not performing the terms of the contract."

And before the image of the city gets too bad, the council will have to pick up the garbage:

Mayor Darrell Bradley
"Yesterday we mobilized our crew in the north side of Belize City and they were able to collect 80% of the garbage. We are again mobilizing and they are going to finish the rest. We are also having our people going out today and we are mobilizing persons to ensure that they can pick up the garbage on the south side."

"We are going to ensure that we deal with this situation. We Waste Control doesn't want to pick up the garbage then we will pick up the garbage."

Tonight much of that garbage we showed has been picked up - but there is still plenty of residential garbage on the southside that is yet to be picked up.

And because the southside is larger than the northside - the council expects to collect less than the 80% it did on the northside yesterday.

The garbage collection effort by the council continues tomorrow - as does the protest, which we are told will resume in the morning.

Channel 7


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#451223 - 11/15/12 02:12 PM Re: Waste Control Pickets City Hall [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

City's Garbage Crisis Resolved (For Now)

After days of threats, protest and bitter back and forth in the media - Belize Waste Control and the Belize City Council worked out their difference.

According to information, they settled their differences at a meeting this morning, which included Mayor Darrell Bradley and Anthony Griffith, the owner of Belize Waste Control.

As we understand it no money was paid immediately - but a commitment was made to commence payments next week - and settle all arrears by the first quarter of next year.

With that, Waste Control deployed its garbage trucks on the Southside this afternoon to pick up all that the council missed yesterday. Tomorrow, they will pick up garbage as normal on the northside.

Because of this breakthrough, there was no picketing today.

Waste control had gone on a two day strike because the council's arrears had exceeded half a million dollars and interim payments were not made as promised.

Channel 7


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