Molewa sends mediator to help striking firefighters in Canada

African News Agency (ANA)

Molewa sends mediator to help striking firefighters in Canada
300 black South African firefighters on strike in Canada. Photo:

Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has dispatched a mediator from Working on Fire – Trevor Abrahams – to Canada to help resolve the dispute between Working on Fire management and 301 South African firefighters deployed to Canada to help contain wildfires, but who have gone on strike over salaries.

Abrahams and a high-level management team from Working on Fire (WoF) would accompany South African High Commissioner to Canada Membathisi Mdladlana to meet the firefighters and address their concerns, Molewa’s ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

“The minister is confident that the matter can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner allowing the firefighters to be demobilised and return safely back to South Africa. Failing which, the mediation team will ensure that the firefighters are demobilised and return safely back to South Africa.”

Molewa fully agreed with sentiments expressed by Alberta governor Rachel Notley that remuneration for the firefighters should be fair and equitable, it said.

To this end the department would continue to engage directly with the implementing agent WoF personnel and the Canadian government on the conditions under which South African firefighters were deployed both now and in future.

This would include the negotiation of a memorandum of understanding between the governments of Canada and South Africa, as well as a concomitant implementation plan between the implementing agencies of Canada and South Africa respectively. This implementation plan would be done in consultation with WoF firefighters.

The 301 firefighters were deployed to the Canadian province of Alberta earlier this month to assist with wildfire suppression as part of a resource sharing agreement with Canadian firefighting agencies.

“Working on Fire has been in existence since 2003 and has received international recognition for its role in supporting conservation and sustaining ecosystems and community upliftment through the provision of job opportunities and skills and training of participants,” the ministry said.

Young men and women from marginalised communities were trained in fire prevention and suppression, as well as in first aid, carpentry, cooking, health and safety, teamwork, leadership skills, and communications.

“Working on Fire is part of the government’s expanded public works programme (EPWP) which aims to create job opportunities for South Africans who cannot find work, enabling them to gain skills and increase their capacity to earn income and to enter the formal workplace.

“Last year two young former firefighters from Working on Fire started with their trainee pilot programme at WoF’s implementing agency where they are expected to graduate as pilots and one day fly WoF’s firefighting aircraft,” the ministry said.

“We are immensely proud of our well-trained firefighters who have done excellent work over a number of years which has been recognised by the international firefighting community,” Molewa said in the statement.

South Africa Today – South Africa News

SOURCEAfrican News Agency (ANA)