Minister Edna Molewa sends mediator to Canada to resolve fire-fighters dispute

12 June 2016


Minister of Environmental Affairs, Bomo Edna Molewa has dispatched a mediator from Working on Fire, Mr. Trevor Abrahams to Canada to assist in resolving the dispute between the management of implementing agent Working on Fire (WoF) and a team of firefighters.

Mr. Abrahams and a high level management team from WoF will today accompany the South African High Commissioner to Canada, Mr Membathisi Mdladlana, to meet with the firefighters and address their concerns.

This is in line with President Jacob Zuma’s request for Minister Molewa’s intervention in resolving the standoff.

The Minister is confident that the matter can be resolved in a mutually satisfactory manner, allowing the fire-fighters to continue with their deployment to suppress wildfires in the Canadian state of Alberta.

Failing which, the mediation team will ensure that the fire-fighters are demobilised and return safely back to South Africa.

Minister Molewa concurs fully with sentiment expressed by Alberta Governor Rachel Notley that remuneration for the firefighters should be fair and equitable.

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

This will 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 will 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 fire fighting 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.

Young men and women from marginalized communities are trained in fire prevention and suppression, but also 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.

Recently nine young people from WoF’s implementing agency were accepted into the SAPS student pilots initiative. A number of others have been upskilled and have joined the SAPS and the SANDF.

“We are immensely proud of our well-trained firefighters who have done excellent work over a number of years, which has been recognized by the international fire fighting community,” says Minister Molewa.

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