Former Ecuador hostages taken off company payroll

Most of the Edmonton pipeline workers who were kidnapped in Ecuador are no longer collecting paycheques. Their company has put them on an unpaid leave of absence.

Ken Foster, manager at United Pipelines Systems, says the men will be better off on workers' compensation until they feel ready to return to work.

Only one of the seven employees is back on the job. United Pipelines has sent the rest of them a letter. It says they can return once a doctor deems them fit.

Terrorists kidnapped the seven Canadians and one American Sept. 11 as they worked on a pipeline near the Colombian border.

They were held for 100 days and forced to walk through the jungle, with little to eat and guns always pointed at them.

The former hostages are still being treated for various tropical and stress-related ailments.

It's not known which terrorist group their captors belonged to. The hostages were freed after a $3.5 million US ransom was paid.

Two of the men say they're angry at the way the company is treating them. They're consulting lawyers about the letter.

"I feel I've given them more than should be expected," Grant Rankin told CBC-TV.

"Not only the time we spent in the jungle, but missing my daughter growing up," said Rod Dunbar. "I've missed many a birthday, the first steps she took, the first words she spoke."

Dunbar says he hasn't slept through the night once since his release. He got the news on Monday.

"There was a knock on the door and there was a courier with a registered letter for us. I was a little shocked at what it had to say. We are no longer on United's payroll."