‘Singing fire­fight­ers’ re­turn af­ter Canada pay row

Lesotho Times - - Entertainment -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG — South African fire­fight­ers who went to Canada to bat­tle wild­fires have re­turned home be­cause of a pay dis­pute.

The 301 fire­fight­ers were de­ployed to Al­berta prov­ince more than two weeks ago to help quell the blaze near the oil city of Fort Mcmur­ray.

A video of them break­ing into song and dance on their ar­rival at Ed­mon­ton air­port went vi­ral on so­cial me­dia.

But they downed hoses when they dis­cov­ered they were be­ing paid less than their Cana­dian coun­ter­parts.

The dis­pute be­gan on Wed­nes­day last week, 10 days af­ter they had ar­rived in Canada af­ter it was re­ported in South Africa that they were mak­ing about 15 Cana­dian dol­lars (M168) an hour - which they said was not the case.

Canada’s Globe and Mail con­firmed that Al­berta’s pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment had agreed to pay 170 Cana­dian dol­lars a day for each fire­fighter to South Africa’s fire­fight­ing agency, Work­ing on Fire.

This was in­tended to cover a C$50 al­lowance, op­er­a­tional ex­penses and their reg­u­lar pay, which ac­cord­ing to the South Afri- can news site Groundup is about C$7 a day.

But the fire­fight­ers, whose board and lodg­ing was be­ing pro­vided by Cana­dian au­thor­i­ties, com­plained that they were only get­ting a C$15 daily stipend.

Work­ing on Fire said they would re­ceive the out­stand­ing al­lowance on their re­turn home, but this means about C$113 for each fire­figher is go­ing on op­er­a­tional ex­penses a day, Groundup says.

The agency has apol­o­gised to the Cana­dian gov­ern­ment and said in a state­ment that it was dis­ap­pointed it was not able to re­solve the mat­ter “be­fore it es­ca­lated to be­come an in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dent”.

“To have a dis­pute about re­mu­ner­a­tion, and to be ac­cused of be­ing un­fair to­wards our peo­ple, is in di­rect con­tra­dic­tion of our com­pany val­ues.”

The wild­fire in Al­berta be­gan on 3 May and was nick­named “the Beast” af­ter de­stroy­ing more than 2,400 homes and build­ings in Fort Mcmur­ray.

Ac­cord­ing to Canada’s state broad­caster, CBC News, the fire is now clas­si­fied as “be­ing held”, which means the fire is not yet un­der con­trol but is no longer ex­pected to grow.

SOUTH African fire­fight­ers ar­rive in Canada to help tackle Fort Mcmur­ray wild­fire.

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