EDMONTON—A desperate call for public servants to volunteer for wildfire-fighting relief proves Alberta's next government must restore funding for these vital services, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
On Tues., May 16, Alberta’s Public Service Commissioner (PSC) emailed all Government of Alberta employees with a call for anyone with firefighting experience or training to volunteer to help combat the wildfires raging across the province. This includes workers with wildland and structural firefighting experience as well as those with experience in support roles such as logistics.
“An ask like this is unprecedented. This smacks of panic,” says AUPE Vice-President Mike Dempsey. “I’ve been on the front lines in previous wildfire seasons when government workers were simply redeployed as necessary. This call for volunteers tells me the government is desperate.”
AUPE Local 005 members, who make up the majority of wildfire-related services, experienced significant cuts throughout the United Conservative Party’s term. Tower lookouts, information officers, warehouse workers, and many more are forced to work short-staffed because of job cuts and reduced funding.
These public sector workers are undervalued as it is. Highly-specialized wildfire dispatchers, logistics coordinators, and other support staff work long hours and receive insufficient compensation for the value of the duties they perform.
“The Government of Alberta must reverse the cuts that were made to wildfire-fighting services,” says Dempsey. “We were not as prepared as we should have been for this provincial state of emergency, and that is a direct result of this government’s decisions.”
The PSC has confirmed that there will be a vetting process for volunteers, additional training, and that volunteers will be treated as redeployed workers, meaning all aspects of their employment, such as pay, will continue as normal.
“Vetting and training is extremely important in a situation like this,” says Dempsey. “Not just anyone can fight wildfires. Our priority is the health and safety of every worker stepping up to protect Albertans, especially volunteers.”
To schedule an interview with AUPE Vice-President Dempsey, please contact:
Alexander Delorme, AUPE Communications, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 780-264-9274