Friday, June 10, 2016

300 South African Fort McMurray firefighters make $15 a day

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says she’s disturbed 300 South African firefighters working the blaze near Fort McMurray are receiving an allowance of only $15 a day, vowing that they’ll be paid what the province’s labour laws require.

After less than a week on the job, the 300 firefighters went on strike Wednesday in a pay dispute with their South African employer. All of the firefighters have been “demobilized” since the strike, and some or all of them will be flown home.
The firefighters arrived in Canada last month, singing and dancing as they landed at Edmonton airport, gaining media attention across Canada and internationally.

Notley said the firefighters need to be paid at least the minimum required by Alberta law – $11.20 an hour. She said the province is paying $170 daily for each South African firefighter, as well as providing food, accommodation and travel costs.

Their organization, Working on Fire, said last week the firefighters would be getting a pay increase because of Canadian concerns that the South Africans would seem to be “slave labour” if they were paid substantially less than Canadian firefighters, who receive up to $26 an hour.
At an impromptu meeting in the field, the crew of firefighters learned that their pay wouldn’t be $50 daily, as many believed, but only $15, with the remainder paid out once they returned home.

South African managers gave a different story. A board member at Working on Fire, said the pay “increase” is mostly derived from the higher “value” of their Canadian pay this year, due to currency fluctuations and the lower cost of living in South Africa compared to Canada.