The Alberta government confirmed Wednesday that South African firefighters who came to the province’s aid in Fort McMurray were finally paid properly under Canadian labour laws.
After arriving to much fanfare in early June, the 300 firefighters left after only a week on the job because of a pay dispute. One firefighter told an Edmonton radio station that he had worked 12-hour shifts for only $50 a day.
He said he saw a news story that he and his co-workers were being paid $21 an hour.
The South African organization, Working on Fire, said no one ever agreed to pay $21 an hour. Prior to the firefighters packing up and going home, Working on Fire said senior managers were coming to Canada to address concerns and oversee the return.
At the time, Premier Rachel Notley weighed in and said the province had contracted with the agency to pay the firefighters roughly $170 a day. She was disgusted that the agency were pocketing a huge portion and made it her mission to insure that the firefighters got every cent that they had paid.
In a statement released Wednesday, Canadian Agriculture Minister Oneil Carlier said the government had received confirmation from South Africa that the firefighters were paid in accordance to the Canadian laws.
The crew was in northern Alberta to tackle an enormous wildfire that forced over 88,000 people from their homes and destroyed thousands of buildings.
“We are grateful that these women and men came to help us in our time of need. We are pleased to get confirmation that they have been paid in accordance with our province’s labour laws,” said Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Oneil Carlier in a statement.
Firefighters walked off the job, telling media that they were actually only receiving $15 per day for 12-hour days — with another $35 per day promised on their return to South Africa.
At the time, Working on Fire apologized for the dispute in a statement.
“We are currently investigating the matter internally and wish to apologize to both the Canadian government and Canadian citizens for any inconvenience this may have caused,” the statement read.