Huge garbage piles lined some streets in Georgetown yesterday as city workers began their sit-in and garbage collectors halted their operations over the non-payment of salaries and outstanding debts.
Mayor of Georgetown Hamilton Green during a meeting with the workers yesterday morning supported their move to strike and once again blamed the government for the cash strapped situation that the city is in.
Workers were told that arrangements are being made to have their October salaries ready by Thursday but they are not buying this promise, vowing to continue their sit-in exercise until their monies are in their hands. If things don’t change by tomorrow they will be walking the streets of Georgetown, they said.
Until this problem is rectified the city will be faced with garbage piles everywhere and this will take a considerable amount of time to remove once work resumes.
When this newspaper visited the incinerator on Princes Street, the workers were on their sit-in exercise. Two of the affected workers told Stabroek News that they will not resume their duties until they get what they are owed. The workers stressed that they are “fed up” with the situation, not being paid on time, and they pointed out that this behaviour by the Mayor and City Council has to end.
While this newspaper was there a truck containing waste from the Georgetown Public Hospital arrived but had to leave after the persons on the truck were told that the garbage cannot be burnt at the incinerator.
Stabroek News was later informed that the waste was first taken to the Mandela Landfill site but it was closed so it was taken to the incinerator.
Contacted on the issue yesterday, Green said that usually the hospital’s waste is buried at the site. He said that the incinerator has been closed for over a year now and occasionally it is used by police to burn marijuana.
Green said that at the meeting he held with workers he pointed out that the council cannot do more unless the revenue base is broadened. He said that he “expressed remorse” that the workers have not been paid but stressed that everything is being done to collect taxes.
He added, however, that even if all the taxes owed are collected that will not be enough to pay the workers, who number several hundred.
According to Green since he took office in 1994, he wrote to the government several times on the issue of broadening the council’s revenue base but to no avail.
He added that although the city is responsible for removing plastic bottles and other materials it has not benefited from the environmental tax.
Green informed this newspaper that he is behind the workers and he told them not to direct their anger towards the council but towards the government.
He said too that the Town Clerk has announced that arrangements are being made to pay the workers by Thursday.
The council in a press release on Monday announced that garbage contractors have withdrawn their services over pay and advised residents not to put their garbage out to be collected as it will not be cleared.
The council however said that the sanitary site off Mandela Avenue is still in operation and householders desirous of using the facility can contact City Hall on 223-5123 or 223-5126.
Earlier this year the council announced that it was cash-strapped and the Mayor laid the blame at the feet of Central Government for not allowing it to broaden its revenue base. The city is over $643M in debt even though a massive campaign was launched to collect outstanding rates and taxes. Garbage collection companies – Cevons, Puran Brothers and others are owed millions. In June work in the city was halted after workers were not paid but this situation was quickly rectified after the government threw a $40M lifeline to the council. (Zoisa Fraser)