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Lethbridge Herald Newspaper Archives

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Lethbridge Herald (Newspaper) - March 24, 1971, Lethbridge, Alberta 44 - THE lETHBRIDOE HERAID - W�dn�Mloy, March 84, 1971 Marine strike traced OTTAWA (CP) 'me eipt-day strike of marine pilots on the St. Lawrence in 1962 is tracedi by a royal comniission to broken, government promises, threats to job security, and an "illegal and arbitrary" bureau-cratite attempt to make the pilots pay operating expenses. The royal commission on pilotage, in its fourth volume released Friday, says the strike was "the predictable result, of the atmosphere of tension, mistrust, nusunderstanding and dis-lagreement that has been developing for years." Its 400,00a-word volume describes the pilots as a proud and conscientious group that often had to prod a passive gov-ernment administration into long overdue reforms. Trouble started in the late 1950s as the income of the pilots rose with the advent of larger and larger ships. In 1960, the transport department moved the seaward boarding point for pilots 37 miles east to Les Escoumins from Father Point. The deputy minister of transport offered the pilots $65,000 to compensate for losses to special pilots. PILOTS AGREE The pilots agreed on the sum, only to receive another letter from the deputy minister saying the pilotage authority wouldn't pay the $65,000. The argument was that pilot earnings were increasing, the workload would dcerease, and Quebec district pilots were making more than those in other areas. The pilots argued that the reversal would cost them up to $2,500 a year, about half of them would be affected, and that the sy^m shouldn't be changed at their expense. The royal commission says Che changes saved shipowners about $50,000 a year. As this situation simmered, the Shipping Federation of Canada, which had been flirting pilotage costs, asked for a federal inquiry into pilotage costs. The federation apparently wanted to fix a ceiling on pilot income by makmg them full civil servants. INVOLVES U S. PILOTS Meanwhile, U.S. pilots from the seaway were taking ships as far down river as Montreal and intended to seek permission to take them as far as Father Point, Que., which would have cut heavily into the income of Canadian pilots. The Canadians began to talk about a strike as it appeared federal legislation would open the way to the U.S. pilots and exempt more ships from using pilots as well. Leon Balcer, then transport minister, aUayed fears about U.S pilots late in 1962. The royal commission says the real reason the transport department reversed its initial decision on the $65,000 was that it came to share tiie view of the shipping interests that the pilots were earning too much. "By refusing to imiplement its promise to reimburse the Quebec pilots for the loss of their unofficial special pilot earnings the aaithority achieved indirectly a substantial reduction in their remuneration," the royai commission says, NOT SUBPRISING "With broken promi.ses of sort," it wasn't surprising that the pilots lost confidence m tne administration. In early 1962, the pilots and the shipping interests still were at odds. Relations were so tense negotiations almost deadlocked. "At that critical moment the treasury board obsmfed that in many districts where pilots' earnings were very high, Quebec included, the government should cease to subsidize pilotage." It told the transport department the districts should be made self-supporting, by paying operational expenses out of pilotage dues, and the department told the pilots the cost would be $125,000 yearly. Each pilot would be assessed 4.5 per cent of income. When the 75 Quebec district pilots went on strike April 6-14, the supervisor took a passive attitude and told ships requesting pilots there were none available at the moment, Some ships made their own way through spring blizzards on the St. Lawence. The Polish hner Batory and some others asked to have their request for a pilot put on record in case of accident. The pilnt.s themselves had to send tek' grams warning ships there '.vas a strike. "The supervisor's office sent no message warning them there were no pilots available nor advising them not to proceed without pilots." The treasury board proposal finally was abandoned by the government and the strike ended EATON CANAJkA-WWE An Baton CanadS'WfdB SpBcMis your assurance of value, the sihcerest effort Eaton's can make to bring you outstanding savings and satisfaction. 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