When news hit South Africa that just over 300 hundred of our firefighters would be travelling to Canada to help out with their raging fire, we were a proud nation.
When the firefighters arrived, they greeted Canadians with a dance in celebration. It was a feel good story, something we needed to unite us in these harsh times brewing before elections.
But then the Canadian Premier got wind that the firefighters working on the blaze were only receiving an allowance of $15 per day (with another $35 to be paid later for a total of $50 per day) – but the Canadian government was paying the South African government for a $170 allowance per day.
And the South African firefighters did the only thing they know to get change: they went on strike. Now, they have been “demobilised” and some are set to even return home.
Canadian Premier Rachel Notley said she is incredibly disturbed by this, and says the firefighters need to be paid the minimum required by Alberta law, which is at least $11.20 an hour. Once again, Canada shows how it should be done.
How is it even possible that the managers of the firefighters have the audacity to disrespect the firefighters in this way?
Premier Rachel Notley spoke about the situation:
It’s not acceptable to me and to my government that we would have people working for wages in our province that do not align with our labour laws.
Every hour that every firefighter from South Africa, or anywhere else, has worked on these fires will be compensated in accordance with our laws in this province.
The South African organisation who received the tender, Working On Fire, last week said the firefighters would be getting an increase as their basic wage (compared to the Canadian firefighters) made it look like slave labour.
They said that even though they (the organisation) are being paid $170 a day per firefighter, the firefighters signed a contract agreeing to $15 a day, plus an additional $35 for each day they worked after they returned home. This was to ensure the firefighters didn’t spend their money on excess while in Canada.
Shouldn’t they be allowed to do what they please?
A statement by the “Working on Fire” said there was “confusion” among the firefighters after media reports of the promised pay increase.
We are dispatching a senior management team to Alberta this evening to address the firefighters’ concerns and to assist with the smooth demobilization of our firefighters and their safe return back home to South Africa.
I think the only confusion is who deserves to get the money.
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