By Alexis R. Milan Staff Reporter
Belize Maintenance Limited (BML)’s owner, Lawrence Ellis, said that he was supposed to receive a payment on Wednesday but was told by City Council that he would not receive a payment for the next two weeks.
According to Ellis, BML and CitCo had met before the Prime Minister’s press conference last Thursday and had agreed to a five-week lump sum payment this Wednesday, but CitCo informed him this week that the date for payment had been changed.
Ellis said he has had no direct communication with the Mayor since their meeting last week but he said they have sent a letter to CitCo requesting that a payment be made to the company. Ellis said they have also contemplated writing to the Prime Minister should they not receive payment within a reasonable time frame.
According to Ellis, there was a $35,000 payment made to BML from the Ministry of Finance last Friday to cover the salary of the employees. Ellis added that while the employees’ salaries are being covered, BML still needs the rest of its payment from CitCo to remain functional.
Ellis stated that CitCo is now 20 weeks in arrears to the sanitation company. He noted that he has made financial arrangements to cover his company’s cost while payments from CitCo remain outstanding but said there may soon come a point when he can no longer shoulder the burden.
Last week, Prime Minister Dean Barrow pledged to cover the cost of BML employee salaries until the expiration of the company’s contract with CitCo in January 2015. Barrow also arranged for all BML workers to transition into employment with CitCo when the contract expires. The intervention came as a result of growing frustration of BML workers who were under threat of losing their jobs.
The unrest led to a protest in front of City Hall on Monday, which saw a bus load of BML workers arrested and charged for littering and participating in an unlawful public gathering. The intervention of the Prime Minister led to all charges being dropped and Mayor Darrell Bradley instructed that the littering tickets be dismissed as well.