The Georgetown City Council has notified private garbage contractors Cevons Waste Management and Puran Brothers Disposal Inc. that it views their planned suspension of collection services from today as a “termination” of their contracts with the municipality.
Both companies had given notice of their intention to suspend their services from today, owing to the hundreds of millions owed to them by the council.
However, by way of a letter, dated August 4, 2017, Town Clerk Royston King informed both companies that the council’s position is based on the fact that there is no provision within their contracts for the suspension of collection services.
“…You are hereby advised that you should not return to fulfill the contractual obligations of garbage collection services until and unless this matter is resolved in its entirety,” King added in the letter.
Cevons’ Chief Executive Officer Morse Archer was stunned by the correspondence, which he received yesterday. “It’s unbelievable. Here it is, they owe us millions of dollars over a lengthy period for services that we provided in good faith. Now that we take some kind of action to press our demand for serious negotiations regarding the settlement of the debt, we are told that our services are terminated. That strikes me as dealing in bad faith,” Archer told Stabroek News.
Although both companies have previously suspended their collection services in the capital owing to the council’s failure to service its debts to them, neither was ever informed before yesterday that the action resulted in the termination of their contracts.
The companies are owed over $300 million in total for work dating back to 2015.
City Hall also recently disclosed that current monthly payment to both contractors is $45 million.
The council’s letter was issued after Mayor Patricia Chase-Green told Stabroek News that the council would be reexamining the contracts as it related to the withdrawal of services. She had also said that the council was going to set up an “emergency team” to address the collection of garbage in all the wards. Past attempts by the council to assume responsibility for garbage collection in several city wards have been unsuccessful.
Failure to honour commitments
Meanwhile, in a joint statement, signed by Archer and Lakenauth Puran, the two companies yesterday explained that they were forced to go the route of suspending their services to the city because of the council’s failure to honour its commitments to them.
They noted that after suspending their services for four days, beginning July 7, 2017, they resumed collection on July 12, 2017, with the understanding that a meeting would be held shortly thereafter to discuss the execution of plans to make a payment to them.
They pointed out that when they attempted to engage the attention of the council during the strike action, it was demanded that they restore their services before talks take place. After they returned to work, they noted, the promise of talks was set aside by City Hall.
“Up to this time and notwithstanding assurances given us by Minister of Communities Ronald Bulkan that the way had been cleared for such a meeting, the Municipality has shown no inclination to meet with us,” they said.
“Additionally, City Hall continues to commit itself to an unreasonable timeframe for the full and final settlement of these debts. Engagements between City Hall and ourselves as have taken place have been characterised by insensitivity, disrespect for the two companies and a shocking level of brazenness. As has already been mentioned, City Hall also appears to have no difficulty in giving commitments to make payments then cynically evading those commitments when the time comes to honour them,” they added, while saying that they had reached a point where they no longer have faith in the council’s promises.
“Indeed, we doubt that they have the will to settle their debts to us any time soon,” they further said.
According to the two companies, it is entirely unacceptable to expect them to provide services without being compensated over a protracted period. “That is the situation in which we find ourselves. Our services require significant, monetary, labour and equipment outlay and becomes unsustainable in the face of the amounts owing to us by City Hall,” they said. “We have endured the situation up until now out of a sense of obligation to the citizens of Georgetown. The continual drain on our limited resources coupled with no discernable indication of a meaningful change in the situation for the foreseeable future have pushed us to breaking point,” they added.
The companies added that they regret the present situation as they have no wish to be seen as holding the capital to ransom. “It is our hope that City Hall will act in a manner that will minimise the difficulties that are bound to arise in this difficult situation,” they said.