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Pierre Vallee - Trois Rivieres, Quebec, Canada - French (Global Lives Project, 2013) - Life Story Part 4

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I like that... The fact that people... They count on me The captain counts on you to transport his ship. The government counts on you to transport the ships Safely, so, the responsibility That comes with this particular job Is something I really like. Could you repeat the question, please? What type of person is this job for? Besides what we've already talked about? Um... I don't know, there are some... There are some people... Some people who don't... You know, the people who... who struggle to... For example laborers... It's not a... It's not a good profession for them. There are some people who Who had to quit This job, because the pressure involved was It was too much for them. I think that people... It's not... It's not a job for people who get nervous. It's not a job for people who are constantly questioning themselves. It's a good thing... But it's also a bad thing. Someone who makes a decision and then later says... Well, I wonder what would have happened... If I'd done this, or that... You can't spend all your time In my profession, questioning your decisions. You make a decision, and you live with it. If it wasn't the right one, you do something to fix it. But... you can't spend all your time doubting yourself. It's... It's good for me, that, because I rarely... I rarely... Doubt the decisions I've made. And I think that it's... it's important... To be like that when you work As a Maritime Pilot. You can't be stubborn either. Sometimes you realise you've made the wrong decision, then you do something Something else to fix it. I don't think that You should be stubborn either. And when there are Two people navigating, or you're berthing a ship You have to take into account... The other person's opinion too. -- Are there women who work as pilots? -- Yes... at the corporation... At the Corporation of Saint Laurent Central Pilots We have two female pilots. Two women who work as pilots... Between Trois-Rivières and Montreal. There are none. In my area between Quebec and Trois-Rivières There is one woman who pilots at the Corporation of Lower St Lawrence Pilots. The pilots between Quebec And Escoumin. Then, I think... that there are ... One or two female pilots on the Great Lakes. But... Piloting... To become a pilot it's... It's quite a long progression, you know. They say that... that people sail for Around fifteen years. Between 10 and 15 years to become A pilot. Recently, it's been less than that because The recruitment needs have been Have been quite high. So we have some young apprentices. Personally, I sailed for seven years before becoming An Apprentice Pilot, but... The... You have to make quite a lot of... Sacrifices when you choose to navigate. And then I think that women who aspire to be... Or who have careers as... As Maritime Pilots have had to sacrifice On the family side of things Because when you navigate... If you want to become a pilot, you have to go and sail You have to go and accumulate sea time because... Sea time is... Time spent on boats... I don't know anyone, I haven't met a woman Who had children, and then returned To navigate.. for long periods of time. On the other hand, there's nothing stopping them One of our pilot colleagues Has been a mom now For a few years. So, it... It doesn't prevent family life but... It becomes an obstacle. Having children... Becomes an obstacle to the maritime career. Then... the maritime career becomes an obstacle In family life... Personally... I met my partner at the Marine Institute And that meant that Evelyne Didn't become a navigation officer. For her, it wasn't really a question of family It was primarily a reason... Um, a question of responsibility. For Evelyne. Being... Being the only person Awake on the boat at 2 o'clock in the morning While 25 or 40 team members are sleeping And are counting on her alone to navigate the boat safely Meant that... She wasn't comfortable with that situation And, she redirected her studies towards teaching. But... The other women who are... Who have finished their navigation studies They had navigated from an early age. But when they decided to have a family The majority stopped navigating, and They got jobs which were linked To the maritime field, but elsewhere. Maritime professions, but different. Whether it be inspector for the Coast Guard, or manager of a company Most of them made those decisions. You were saying earlier that... That is was in a... in some... A similar context that meant that you went from being Captain To being a Pilot. That, too, was to be closer To your children... -- Yes, yes. -- How do you see your role As a father? -- Well, my children... Haven't... didn't really know me When I was navigating The oldest was born when... The last long trip I took. When I left, Zacharie was 3 weeks old. When I came back, he was 5 and a half months old. Straight after that, I became a Captain on the 'Traversis,' so then, the rota was quite... Accommodating in terms of family life. We worked one week, then we had one week off. Then... I went back to piloting In April, and Zacharie... Turned one... a month and a half later. So there's... There was very little Awareness of the time I was navigating for. It happened while my partner Accepted it. It's... It's quite difficult, on a personal level Navigating. Being far away from the people you love... For a long time. If, on top of that, you have... Pressure from your family It becomes quite... Difficult to pursue a career Like that. I have a few colleagues who stopped navigating Because of that... that... That pressure. Because their partners Did or didn't support them. I have to admit that I've had this career And I've... It's Thanks to my wife because... She really supported me During the time I spent navigating. Then after that The two years of apprenticeship are two years Of very concentrated study. So... she supported me in that too. Um... -- But is there another way of looking at it? In that men too... Take... make career choices or... Change careers... Because of certain responsibilities... Family responsibilities which are... -- Oh, yes, definitely! -- Rather than focusing on... On their partner. Because the family's a unit. I imagine that men, too, want to be close to their... Their children. -- Yes, but, what I'm saying is that... That pressure is mainly Present Over the first few years Of navigation. When you have been navigating For ten years, even if you have children When you navigate, the... The... desire... To be home more often means that you make Career decisions so that you can Be at home and piloting is probably One of the best... because... The free time that the profession Provides... Means that you can be at home With the children... With your partner... The... The degree of... The remuneration that the job provides... Means that you can have a life Which is relatively comfortable. And then... You know it's a bit... It's a bit... Piloting is the peak of the maritime career Even though it's not Be-all and end-all, there could be... something else... Beyond the piloting career, but I don't know anyone who has Willingly stopped Piloting in order to do something else. It becomes difficult After having conditions which are. Which are comparable to those of piloting You become a pilot at a certain point, because... Because you want to be more present at home and... And make the most of... Of time with those you love. Does your work have... an impact... On your lifestyle, despite the fact that You don't have enough... -- Oh, yes! -- Piloting? Oh yes! There is an impact... On the whole family, because The fact that there is no routine, there are no fixed hours Can also be a negative... You know, you don't know if you will be working So, your partner can't count on you to Look after the children, if there is a... A dance class or a painting class You can't promise you will be there Because you might be there, but then you might not be there And... maybe you'll be there at Christmas, maybe you wont. And then at New Year, it's the same thing. You alternate. One year you have Christmas off, one year you have New Year off. So the year that you're working at Christmas Will you be called? Won't you be called? Should she plan a family party, or not? Should she... You don't know. In working hours There's no, no long weekends. There are no Wedding anniversaries. There are no Sundays, no... Saturdays. So that... Really, it creates... It creates... It's a drawback for the rest of the family. You know, for everyone. Your kid Is playing hockey. Can you go? I don't know. It depends whether I've got a ship, you know? In our house... The most-used phrase is: It depends whether I've got a ship. It depends if Pierre has a ship. If... We're invited to someone's house for supper... During my working period, then... I can never guarantee that I will be there. On the other hand, we're working. We're free... 207 days. Which also means That there are... 100... 153 days... 158 days when I can be certain... That I'll be at home. So, during the summer Normally, we work... Our... Our work rotas over the summer are normally Around 16 days of work... 17 days of... Of work. Then after that, 13 or 14... Days off. In the autumn, there's a little more traffic. We work around... 20 days a month with... around... 10 days off. Then in winter We separate, for the three months of winter, into 2 groups So, half the group works From the 1st January to the 14th February While the 2nd group is on holiday for Those 6 weeks, and then we alternate. Those who were On holiday for the first 6 weeks will work For the second 6 weeks. Those who were working Will be on holiday. So we have 6 consecutive weeks Of holiday. However, we have 6 consecutive weeks Of work as well. -- What does your family like most... About your job? -- Um... Probably... The fact that I like it. And... Also, probably the... The comfort it brings to The family... In terms of... Job stability. My wife, my children, they will never have to wonder If dad will still have a job In two weeks. And the rate of pay is such that It makes all of our lives relatively comfortable. -- And how do you find that, not always... Managing to attend your children's activities... Even though you have quite a few days holiday over the year? -- Well, you know, it's always... A sacrifice... And I don't... like to... Show, you know, the... My... My feelings about that... When I accepted This job, I said to myself... Quite early on, even, when I decided to be a sailor You know, I kind of... Told myself... Um... I didn't censor myself, but... I kind of put up a wall You know, instead of saying 'Oh, well... you know... 'I will be upset because I'm missing Christmas," I tell myself... 'I'm missing Christmas, because I'm working.' And I try To focus on the... The time I will be there, and then the time When I can't be there, well, you know... I'm not missing it by choice... The... My son's play. So, it's work. On the other hand ????? As a pilot, you can always take Some special holidays. We have 4 Special holidays per year that we can take whenever we like. And they're paid. And then we can take other Unpaid special holidays. So... For someone who says: "I really don't want to miss "My son's play," well... You take a special holiday, and you go and see the play. But if you say "I don't want to miss a single one of his Hockey games," and then he plays hockey twice a week On Saturday and on Sunday, well, you'll run out of Special holidays at some point, and your colleagues will say "It's cool that your son plays hockey, but "While you're at the arena, I..." "Have to look after your ship," so I think there There has to be a balance. You know? We Me, I'm... I'm not sure of the term but... I kind of... --Adjusted? -- Yes, adjusted to the fact that It would be like that and That's the way my life would be. -- And so... Are your children understanding of the fact that you can't Always be there for events and activities? -- Yes, they're Quite understanding... It's... I've never... Heard them... Complain directly to me. You'd have to ask my wife if they complain to her But... No, I think they understand The nature of my job and... They have, they have friends who Who have... Whose parents have jobs which mean they can't be there. We have friends... Who are doctors... So they can't always be there... We have friends who... The father is a... He's a security guard... At the... Thermal power station in G... at the Nuclear power station in Gentilly and he also Works hours which are quite Long, so... He... He has missed activities a few times. -- Would you like one of your sons... One of your children to become a pilot? -- Well Yes, honestly, I'd like that. Because... I know what they can get Out of this job. What I get out of it, and... Honestly, I don't know of many other Careers with... The advantages that this one has. Whether it be in terms of... Availibility, or in terms of finance In terms of responsibility. And I think that... At least for The third one it's still A little unclear, but the first two they would They have what it takes to... To become good pilots. From what I have seen Of their characters Up to now, yes. -- Is it... Difficult to recruit young pilots and if so, why? It is... It has been hard. A year and a half ago We wanted to recruit 5 new apprentices. And we could only find three. Why...? I think there are a few reasons for that. But, the... These jobs are a little less... A little less fashionable, you know? Leaving to navigate... When you're 18-19-20 years old, it's not... It's not very glamorous. On the other hand... There are so many advantages...Especially for the youngsters Who are finishing at the Marine Institute, they can get a job Quite easily. It's probably a bit difficult to understand. At the last recruitment drive, we had no problems. Then... The change in perceptions... In social perceptions meant that There are less people who are attracted by these jobs. -- You know, I was wondering how this job Is perceived in Quebecois society? You just answered this question a little bit. -- Yes, but... I think that the... The piloting profession is very well regarded. -- Yes. -- You know, pilots are there to... To ensure public safety. Because piloting is a public service. We are there... To make sure that there are no marine accidents or incidents And the consequences they can have. Although it's not Impossible that there could be, because... There's no mode of transport which is 100% safe, but Let's say that piloting means that If we ensure a very high success rate For transits in St Laurent I think that the profession is Is well-regarded... the piloting profession... Is well regarded by the population. You know, it's a profession Which is intriguing, when people have the chance To ask us questions, they're Intrigued by this profession. They are fascinated, even, by this profession. -- Is it... Is it a valued profession, then? Because you were saying That it's not very glamorous for youngsters, but then There's an attraction, an interest, isn't there? -- I meant I meant in terms of... Young navigation officers. You know... There is a difference between Navigating as an officer on a ship and Being a pilot. But in terms of Of going to sea For 2, 3 or 4 months at a time When you're... Just beginning your adult life. That's why I was saying it's not very 'glamorous' You know those fashionable careers. I've hardly ever heard 'Navigation officer' in that list. You know, in all the reports About jobs and careers, I've hardly ever heard that. On the other hand, when people take the time to Look at the possibilities That the jobs 'done' at the Marine Institute Offer, I think that... Once you've Looked properly, it becomes a choice which is Quite easy to defend. -- Has the profession changed much since globalization? -- The profession has changed Because the navigation techniques, because the Instruments used in navigation are changing. Obviously, market Globalization means that yes... The traffic Is different, but... For me, piloting a ship which is Loaded with wood, like they transported On the river, 75 or 100 years ago Or transporting a ship which is loaded with... With containers of products made in China. The job in itself is no different. What does change is Is the need for transportation. That's why there are so many Ships today, it's because there is lots of Commercial trade. You know, globalization, it has advantages But it has disadvantages too. Nowadays, it's become much more cost-efficient to refine oil, for example, in Russia Or in certain parts of the world, where Labor is cheaper. So, instead of using crude oil, we use Petroleum, which has already been refined, because the Montreal refineries have nearly all closed down. The change has mostly been in the products Which are being transported, rather than the job in itself. -- Navigation facilitates, in some way Globalization, would you say that? -- I think that... I think that navigation Is adapting itself to globalization. -- Don't you think that it... Made globalization possible? -- No I think it's adapting to it. --Ships have been transporting merchandise for a long time now. -- Yes, it's not necessarily a bad thing. Globalization It's a way of connecting people. I think that Ships had a lot to do with it. -- Yes, yes. But I don't know if... You know, it's the chicken or the egg. -- Oh, yes! -- Did the ships make globalization possible Or is globalization something That the ships had to adapt to? I'm not really sure, but In any case we're always seeing new ships Ships we never could have imagined before. This has been over Just the last few decades. You know, the Danish company 'Maersk' builds ships Which are able to transport 18,000 Containers. 18,000 20 foot containers on one single ship. So, have transport demands led us To build ships like that? The answer is yes. If there wasn't a demand for it They would never have built it. You know, containers They're relatively new. Container ships which transport storage containers, 50 or 60 years ago, there were hardly any. All of the merchandise was loose, was on pallets With the transportation limits of that, You couldn't ship Beef from New Zealand For example Within a time limit that would Mean it would still be fresh upon arrival in Montreal. Whereas today, with The speed of ships, and the fact that Ships can now transport refrigerated containers Which need to be plugged in Which will remain at a stable temperature Throughout transit, means that This is possible now. There are ships Which transport all sorts of things nowadays. You know, on a container ship with 18,000 Containers on it, pretty much Any modern consumer goods can be found on board. From televisions To coffee percolators... From a sofa Made by Ikea In Sweden, to... To a car which was manufactured In China which will come To Europe, then... Almost everything that you can find Can be found on a container ship today. -- Is it... -- We're going to have a short break. -- Are pilots unionized? -- Pilots here, no. We're not unionized. We're members of corporations, but we're not unionized. We do have legal protection, though From the Merchant Service Guild. The Guild works as a union would For navigation officers But as pilots, we're not under their... Their protection on a trade-union level, but We are under their legal protection for any proceedings. And then we, as a Corporation, negotiate Directly with the Pilotage Authority Working conditions, work contracts We've just finished... I've just finished A mandate, as Vice-President of the corporation And through my mandate, we negociated The next work contract for the For 110 pilots Over three sectors: Quebec - Trois-Rivières Trois-Rivières - Montreal and the Port of Montreal. -- So... How many days A week do you work, on average? Well... As I was just saying We work around 100... between 130 and 140 assignments Per year. Usually, over... Like just, I... I worked May 1st to May 10th I did 8 ships, but that's a lot It's rarely as many as that. Usually, we aim for a work coefficient of Around 0.6, so Over 10 days, currently, we do around 6 ships, so, in 7 days, let's say We'll do 4. Maybe... Per week, maybe 4 to 5 ships a week. -- Is it A competitive field, this profession? -- Competitive, um... No, I wouldn't say so. There isn't any competition Of course there isn't any competition in piloting. I mean the ship-owner doesn't have the option Of using... One piloting company over another. They have to do business with us On the other hand, we can't... We don't have a direct link With the companies. That's the big advantage the pilot has. When the captain makes a decision for his ship The owner The ship-owner Is also his employer. So, when He makes a decision, he has to consider The... Um... Not the repercussions, the consequences. -- The consequences. -- Let's start again. -- When the captain makes a decision He has to consider the commercial consequences. If he stops his ship, if he drops anchor Because it's foggy, that has... commercial consequences. For example, there are dockers at Montreal who are called But then won't work because the ship is anchored. The ship-owner will pick up the phone and say to the captain: 'Hey! I want you to dock the ship.' But the captain will say 'Yes, but the weather's not nice, it's windy, foggy... 'I can't see anything.' He'll say 'Hey! I want my ship!' There's a direct link.

Video Details

Duration: 30 minutes and 1 second
Country: Canada
Language: French (Canada)
Producer: Karen Vanderborght
Views: 214
Posted by: globallives on Sep 30, 2013

This is part of a 24-hour recording of a day in the life of Pierre Vallee, a boat pilot living in Trois Rivieres in the province of Quebec, Canada.

This video was produced by Karen Vanderborght, David Fabrega, Marie Dietlin, Rafi Leeuwenkroon, Marianne Ploska, and Catherine Genest.

This video is part of the Global Lives Project, a video library of life experience.
For more information please visit

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