Canadian premier ‘disturbed’ by how little SA firefighters were paid

2016-06-11 15:48
301 South African firefighters sent to Canada to help battle a raging wildland fire in Alberta. (Working on Fire, Facebook)

301 South African firefighters sent to Canada to help battle a raging wildland fire in Alberta. (Working on Fire, Facebook)

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SA firefighters in Canada: 'It's not about the money'

2016-06-09 11:22

After almost a week on the fire line in Alberta, Canada, South Africa's crew of firefighters report back on what the conditions, and overall experience has been like. On Tuesday we spoke to Working On Fire's Trevor Wilson over Skype from Winnipeg, Canada. Watch. WATCH

Cape Town - Canadian premier Rachel Notley has said she chose to send South African firefighters back home because their daily allowance was below her province’s minimum wage, a report has said.

Notley this week said the dispute was between the firefighters and the South African government, but would take steps to intervene after being “disturbed” by the rate of pay the firefighters ultimately went home with, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.

One of the firefighters, Ditiro Moseki, told CBC he was “very much happy” that the Alberta premier supported the firefighters’ stance, after Moseki described the pay as "peanuts”.

He said the firefighters are grateful for the “very good job” Notley was doing for them.

Notley was quoted as saying that it was not acceptable to her and her government that they would have people working for wages that do not align with their labour laws, News24 reported earlier on Saturday.

She said every firefighter from South Africa or anywhere else would be compensated "in accordance with our laws in this province.''

CBC reported that the South African firefighters would earn the equivalent of $4 an hour, compared with the Alberta minimum wage of $11.20 an hour. Accommodation and food is covered by Canadian authorities. The firefighters went after a tender by the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre. 

Working on Fire 'feel terrible, not skimming'

Working on Fire chairperson Johan Heine earlier told News24 the group felt terrible about the turn of events, but were working with the Canadian government to bring the firefighters home timeously.

Heine said Working on Fire wanted to refute claims that the government funded job creation initiative was skimming from the $170 a day the Canadians were paying, and only paying firefighters $50 a day.

''They were getting R720 a day while they were there, and suddenly they are demanding R300 a day.''

He said they earn their normal South African salary - between R100 to R650 a day depending on their seniority, plus a R70 a day away from base allowance, plus a R50 a day out of country bonus.

''So they get paid three times.''

Read more on:    working on fire  |  canada  |  fires

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