By Alexis R. Milan
Prime Minister Dean Barrow has assured Belize Maintenance (BML) workers that they will be paid for the rest of their time with BML. He also assured them that they will have guaranteed work with the Belize City Council after the BML contract expires in January 2015.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow, speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, said government had stepped in to meet with BML owner Lawrence Ellis and had mediated a solution between the company and CitCo.
According to Barrow, GOB will pay $35,000 every week, starting Friday, to BML until the expiration of its contract in January.
“The commitment on the part of government,” Barrow said, “is to pay the salaries through …[to] whenever the contract expires, and the City Council in turn is committing to employing those workers, [and] to having them transition to the status of Belize City Council employees.”
Barrow also announced that the charges against the 22 women workers who were detained on Tuesday, would be withdrawn.
“With respect to the first 22, the police will withdraw those charges. [The police] will not proceed with any prosecution of those charges,” Barrow affirmed.
Barrow also intervened on behalf of the other 19 workers who were to be arraigned on Wednesday.
He explained, “There were others to be arraigned today, as a consequence of our discussion and agreement those were not proceeded with… there was no lodging of the charges, so the assurance is that those charges will not now be lodged and so they don’t have to worry.”
Barrow said he considered the workers’ plight and decided that they were simply fighting for their rights.
He added that his government always has and will continue to champion causes for poor people.
BML, who is paid $78,000 weekly by CitCo, will need to cover its other operational costs.
Mayor Darrell Bradley, whose council owes BML 18 week’s payment, said it was unfortunate for the situation to reach the point that it did and said he was compelled to act after he saw images of the BML workers being incarcerated.
Bradley maintained that the workers decision to assemble without obtaining adequate permission and their littering of the streets were indeed illegal actions, but, he added, “leadership is about flexibility”.
The tickets for littering which were also issued to the workers will be cancelled, Bradley explained.
Bradley said he was grateful for central government’s intervention and its contribution to resolving the conflict between BML and CitCo.
Bradley indicated that he had met with Ellis and discussed options for CitCo to clear their arrears with the company moving forward.