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South Africa Firefighters: Company Apologizes For Pay Dispute In Alberta

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EDMONTON — A South African company that brought a crew of 300 people to Alberta to help fight the Fort McMurray wildfire says it is sorry about an ongoing dispute over their pay.

Working on Fire Ltd. posted a message on its website Friday saying it is extremely disappointed the dispute wasn't resolved internally before it escalated into an international incident.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said the province contracted with the company to pay the firefighters roughly $170 per day.

But a member of the crew says they were being paid about $50 per day for fighting the fire in 12-hour shifts.

Working on Fire says it never agreed to pay anyone that amount and the workers are leaving for home because of the dispute.

Notley has said her NDP government will ensure that every firefighter from South Africa is paid according to Alberta law, which stipulates a minimum wage of $11.20 per hour.

The company said it is treating the pay dispute with the utmost importance and is committed to finding an amicable solution.

"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," Working on Fire said in a statement.

Working on Fire said it has successfully completed numerous international deployments.

The company said it pays its firefighters an agreed upon rate that is spelled out in signed contracts.

"To have a dispute about remuneration and to be accused of being unfair towards our people is in direct contradiction of our company values."

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