The president of the Saskatchewan Government and General Employees Union says he doubts eliminating 38 staff members who man northern fire towers will really bring much benefit to northern Saskatchewan.

Bob Bymoen is criticizing the government’s decision to replace the seasonal workers with automated cameras.

The government is scheduled to phase out the jobs next summer.

Bymoen says human surveillance should continue to be a key strategy to spotting fires in the north:

“And we don’t believe that for a moment that it’s going to save as much money.   We doubt it’s going to save any money at the end of the day. Either the roads have to be maintained or they’re going to fly choppers in to maintain the cameras on these towers.”

For its part, the government has said it is worried about the worker’s safety because they are forced to climb 80 to 90 stairs daily to get to their station.

Bymoen says the employees are insulted the government portrays the move as an effort to protect them.

The union also says workers are secured in a harness and safety line, and the tower ladders are enclosed.

Bymoen believes the move could end up costing more than advertised in hidden costs.

He also says the cameras won’t be able to spend money in nearby communities, which is something the workers could.