Cevons, Puran Brothers win private sector backing in pay dispute with City Hall

Cevons Waste Management staff at work

Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers, the two waste disposal companies locked in a protracted dispute with the Mayor and City Council (M&CC) over the municipality’s continued failure to liquidate debts that have reportedly climbed to more than $300 million this week appeared to have won the full backing of much of the private sector following a meeting with the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry on Tuesday, which was also attended by representatives of other urban pressure groups that have a civic interest in the impasse.

Just hours after the meeting, the Chamber issued a statement in which it described the protracted non-payment on the part of City Hall “for acceptable services” as “a fundamental breach of contract.” It noted that the debt notwithstanding the two contractors had “continued to work with the M&CC over the past few years in hope that the issue could have been resolved amicably.” The Chamber in its release also called on City Hall to meet with the two companies in order to arrive at a solution to the problem. Simultaneously, the release called on the Government of Guyana to intervene in the matter in order to ensure that the waste collection services in the capital are properly executed.

While Town Clerk Royston King has been seeking to offer assurances that having terminated the contracts with the two waste disposal entities the service will be sustained by contractors hastily hired in their place, owners of business places in downtown Georgetown with whom this newspaper spoke said that there was no reason to have confidence in the assurances emanating from City Hall. “Remember that this is not the first time that we have had this kind of situation. These kinds of promises have not been kept in the past and there is no reason to believe that it will be any different this time,” one Regent street merchant told this newspaper.

Outside the Stabroek Market a small group of vendors hastened to tell the Stabroek Business that there was no garbage disposal service in the capital that can muster the collective capability of Cevons and Puran Brothers. “The others don’t really have the equipment,” one vendor quipped. Another expressed the view that the real challenge for the replacement service providers was likely to come when there is a pileup of the weekend’s garbage.

When Stabroek Business spoke with Cevons’ Chief Executive Officer Morse Archer on Wednesday he said that both companies were keen to publicly dispel the view being articulated by both the Town Clerk and City Mayor Patricia Chase-Green that they were “acting unreasonably” in pursuit of their efforts to have the debt liquidated. “It is simply not true to state that we have rejected any serious offer in relation to the liquidation of the debt. The council has been disrespectful to us; they have been dismissive of us; they have written us cheques that have bounced and they have made us promises of payment that they have not honoured. Let me say this: If City Hall were to make us a fair and reasonable proposal tomorrow for the liquidation of the debt, bearing in mind the amount owing to us and if they do so in an environment of trust we would sit with them tomorrow. My view is that there is a lack of respect for us as the contractor on their part.”

Archer told Stabroek Business that he had seen a media release issued by the Town Clerk on Wednesday in which he had described the two waste disposal companies as City Hall’s “partners.” He said he had found King’s remarks baffling. “You owe us millions of dollars which we have already worked for; we keep faith with you and when we demonstrate our concern by withdrawing our services you issue us with letters terminating our contracts. A few days later you issue a public statement describing us as partners. That makes no sense at all,” Archer said.

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