FIREFIGHTERS FAIL TO FIGHT SALARY DISPUTES
Written by: Mfundo Mabaso
It has come to a bitter-end to a beautiful and praised initiative by the Department of Environmental Affairs and Working on Fire, (WoF), to deploy firefighters in Canada.
Firefighters have returned back to South Africa after being sent home by the Canadian government following protests on salary disputes. The firefighters reported that they were not paid the same salaries as their international counterparts.
WoF had deployed 301 South African firefighters in Akerta, Canada, in May to assist the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre (CIFFC) with their wildland fire suppression efforts.
The firefighters were deployed as part of government’s Expanded Public Work Programme which aims to enhance participants’ chances of finding jobs or starting their own businesses, as it has already happened with 197 of the 375, who now are employed as managers of the same programme, and come from the ranks of fire fighters.
Department of Environmental Affairs Minister, Edna Molewa, said that these programmes are meant to enhance job opportunities and those who participate are paid according to prescribed guidelines.
“Such remarks evidence a fundamental misreading of the context and circumstances that led to the dispute around the remuneration of our firefighters whilst they were deployed to Canada,” said Molewa.
Molewa added: “Our firefighters have now returned home. Things have normalized as they are back to their South African working conditions. The Working for Fire (Pty) Ltd and the departmental National Resource Management Committee, chaired by DEA, will follow up with a full internal investigation to get to the bottom of the causes of the impasse that arose when they were in Canada. This will be done with the view to ensure that nothing of this sort recurs in future.
It is not the first time firefighters from WoF have went to assist the CIFFC in Canada. Last year 48 firefighters were deployed.
The department also reported that participants on interaction deployment such as the WoF firefighters receive higher earnings in the form of an out-of-country allowance of fifty Canadian dollars (CAD $50) per day, in addition to their local remuneration while deployed abroad.
Caption: The firefighters were deployed as part of government’s Expanded Public Work Programme