What it cost to fight the Canada fires

What it cost to fight the Canada fires

15 June 2016

published by http://citizen.co.za

South Africa/Canada —  After being accused of making millions in profits from the deployment of firefighters to Alberta, Working on Fire has released a full breakdown of what it says are its true costs.

Amid speculation by a number of media outlets about the amount of profit that Working on Fire (WoF) stood to make from the deployment of 301 fighfighters to Canada, the company has released a full cost breakdown of the exercise.

Online publications The Daily Vox and GroundUp reported that the company was possibly making millions in profits from the firefighters, and not remunerating the firefighters in terms of what Canada would have deemed acceptable. This was suggested as the possible reason the company’s workers downed their hoses in Alberta, where wildfires were raging. When The Citizen tried to confirm these numbers with the company yesterday, we were advised that the numbers were incorrect and the company would provide a full cost breakdown to us and the rest of the media.

The South African team arrived home early on Tuesday.

In a press release from WoF national spokesperson Linton Rensburg today, the company provided a “clarification” on the matter of costs.

It said: “After the recent negative media coverage regarding the miscommunication and subsequent wage dispute about the remuneration of the WoF firefighters who were deployed to Canada, we would like to clarify the firefighters’ remuneration and other expenditure related to the Canadian deployment.

WoF implements the Working on Fire Programme for government. Any profits that are generated through third party work, after the maximum of 9.6% is paid to Kishugu as a management fee, is used to employ and develop additional people.

The release states that according to Johan Heine, chairperson of the WoF board, “Various media reports referred to a cost of CAD170 (R2 000) per day. We are not sure what this amount actually refers to. The agreed project flat rate was CAD157 per day.”

The company added that the minister of environmental affairs, Edna Molewa, had contacted the management of WoF for an update on the circumstances surrounding the strike by firefighters over remuneration.

Government is an important stakeholder in the programme through its subsidy, which is supplied as part of the Expanded Public Works Programme that looks to create employment for South Africans.

WoF further explained that “after a successful deployment of 50 firefighters to Canada in July 2015, WoF received another request on 20 May 2016 to assist with wildland fire suppression efforts in Canada”.

They said the “proposed deployment was for a 14-day operational period with a three-day rest period before the second rotational period, also comprising of a 14-day operational period with a three-day rest period (total of 34 days)”.

“After these two operational rotations, the fire situation would have been re-evaluated and the crew would have returned home or extended operational deployment plans would have been negotiated.

“A total of 301 people were deployed to Canada on a chartered Boeing 777 for the initial
operational period of 34 days.

“Additional to the 34 operational days (including time off) in Canada, the crews were required for five days predeployment (mobilisation and travelling) and four days post-deployment (travelling and de-mobilisation). The costs associated with this were included in an agreed flat rate of CAD157 per day.

The company has provided a table of the total cost breakdown of the exercise.

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