BELIZE CITY–Two months after approximately 170 sanitation workers currently employed by the Belize Maintenance Limited (BML) were assured that they would be hired by the Belize City Council (CitCo) when their employer’s contract expires in January 2015, Belize City Mayor Darrell Bradley is seemingly pondering the viability of such a move, citing the substantial financial burden that will fall squarely in the lap of what Bradley described as a Council that would become further strapped for revenue.
In an interview with the media yesterday outside the Belize City Supreme Court where he had been defending a client in his role as attorney, Bradley admitted his concern that taking on all those employees will unsustainably flood the Council’s workforce and excessively increase its expenditure.
He said, “One of the biggest things that is concerning me is working very closely with the transition to the new regime after BML’s contract is expired, and I think that that is something that should cause members of the public some concern because it’s causing me some concern, to find out how we will incorporate 170 people into our system.
“What kind of heat our budget will take by having to take on 170 people, and you’re not only talking about salaries, you are also talking about pension liabilities, about housing them in terms of an area and you are talking about equipment. We recently got a report that as a result of just those 170 people, we have to hire four more HR [human resources] staff to process their tax payments, Social Security benefits, all those kind of things just to deal with that addition, and that will grow the City Council’s staff complement by 35%.”
So, will the Mayor renege on his decision to provide these BML workers with employment which, in most of their cases, will more than likely determine whether or not they are able to put food on the table in the upcoming year? His response was that that would be a judgment call for the public.
“I don’t think that it’s a difficulty in relation to me. I think that it’s a difficulty in relation to the public — what the public has to consider. That really is a significant addition and a change to the City Council. We will be seeing the staff of the Council go from 240 and be added on to by 170 additional persons. Any employer, any businessperson, any person who manages a large organization, whether it is public or private, will appreciate the significance of having your staff grow by those kinds of numbers and the amount that that will represent in terms of your costing and how that’s going to hit your budget”, he answered.
One of the Mayor’s proposals to cut down the $78,000 per week that CitCo has to dish out to BML in garbage fees is for city residents to maintain at least two feet of the property that extends from the front of their homes.
That, he said, would lower the BML bill to around $30,000 a week and free up much-needed Council revenues; however, critics argue that that would be ineffective if CitCo has to drum up extra money to maintain 170 extra workers.
Bradley, with the agreement of his party leader, Prime Minister Dean Barrow, had agreed to hire the BML workers as part of a reconciliation deal which took place in the wake of a furious protest, during which almost 50 of those sanitation workers emptied numerous bags of trash on the street in front of City Hall in a fit of rage based at the time on the Council’s non-payment of outstanding arrears to their employer, which translated to a backlog of wages and ultimate frustration for the workers who, like other working class individuals, have daily expenses and other obligations to meet.