South African firefighters who went to Canada to douse Fort McMurray wildfire now fights for equal pay

 12 Jun 2016 - 0:00

Johannesburg: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma stepped in Saturday to resolve a pay dispute that has led to a strike by 300 of his nation's firefighters who are in Canada battling massive forest fires.

At Ottawa's request, the firefighters flew to Canada two weeks ago to help quell the wildfire near the oil city of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

But this week they were reported to have downed their hoses after discovering they were being paid less than their Canadian counterparts.

In a statement the presidency said Zuma has asked South Africa's Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa "to intervene in resolving the matter" and help "in finding a solution to the impasse."

Canada reportedly wants the firefighters -- who were supposed to work for a month -- sent back home.

"The Canadian government has asked us to get them out of Canada as soon as possible," Johan Heine, chairman of the board of Working on Fire, told South Africa's news agency News24.

Working on Fire is a South African government-funded project aimed at job creation that provided the firefighters to Canada.

Heine said the firefighters want their demands met before they fly out.

"They are demanding their money before they leave," Heine was quoted as saying by the news agency. "We all feel very terrible about it."

Zuma's office said his government welcomed the opportunity offered to South African youths to work abroad and that the ties between Pretoria and Ottawa have "deepened each year" since the end of apartheid.

The Canada wildfires forced some 100,000 residents of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas of the oil sands hub to evacuate.

Residents started returning last week after the fires moved away from town, tracking eastward.

The South Africans were part of some 1,700 firefighters, including teams from the United States, who were still battling the blaze, assisted by water bombers and heavy equipment.

AFP

Johannesburg: South Africa's President Jacob Zuma stepped in Saturday to resolve a pay dispute that has led to a strike by 300 of his nation's firefighters who are in Canada battling massive forest fires.

At Ottawa's request, the firefighters flew to Canada two weeks ago to help quell the wildfire near the oil city of Fort McMurray, Alberta.

But this week they were reported to have downed their hoses after discovering they were being paid less than their Canadian counterparts.

In a statement the presidency said Zuma has asked South Africa's Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa "to intervene in resolving the matter" and help "in finding a solution to the impasse."

Canada reportedly wants the firefighters -- who were supposed to work for a month -- sent back home.

"The Canadian government has asked us to get them out of Canada as soon as possible," Johan Heine, chairman of the board of Working on Fire, told South Africa's news agency News24.

Working on Fire is a South African government-funded project aimed at job creation that provided the firefighters to Canada.

Heine said the firefighters want their demands met before they fly out.

"They are demanding their money before they leave," Heine was quoted as saying by the news agency. "We all feel very terrible about it."

Zuma's office said his government welcomed the opportunity offered to South African youths to work abroad and that the ties between Pretoria and Ottawa have "deepened each year" since the end of apartheid.

The Canada wildfires forced some 100,000 residents of Fort McMurray and surrounding areas of the oil sands hub to evacuate.

Residents started returning last week after the fires moved away from town, tracking eastward.

The South Africans were part of some 1,700 firefighters, including teams from the United States, who were still battling the blaze, assisted by water bombers and heavy equipment.

AFP