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Strikes, Blizzard Hit Newfoundland

April 4, 2001

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland (AP) _ The government of the eastern Canadian province of Newfoundland appealed on Tuesday to striking snowplow operators to return to their trucks as a deluge of snow and freezing rain brought havoc to the province’s highways.

The mayor of Lawn, on Newfoundland’s south coast, pleaded on radio for a snowplow after he learned that an elderly woman was injured in a fall and needed an ambulance to get to hospital. The woman later died, said Mayor Bill Lockyer. It was not clear if an ambulance had reached her home. No other details were immediately available.

Transport Minister Percy Barrett threatened to hire private contractors to clear the snow unless union members agreed to put more drivers on the road.

``We are asking the union and the picketers for life and safety reasons that, if we have to go this route, not to interfere,″ Barrett said.

There was no immediate response from the Newfoundland Association of Public Employees, which has had 16,400 members on the picket line since Sunday. Union leaders have said they have yet to receive a formal request from Barrett.

In the largest strike in the province’s history, the union has demanded a three-year deal with a 15 per cent pay raise. The province has offered 13 per cent, plus pension improvements. A conciliator is holding informal talks with both sides.

The storm hit Newfoundland late Monday afternoon and gathered strength through the night, dumping up to a foot of snow, freezing rain and ice pellets. Parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island were also crippled Tuesday because of blizzards.

A crew of essential workers tried to keep the highways clear, but the storm overwhelmed the 44 pieces of equipment on the road. That is about a quarter of the nearly 200 machines that would normally operate.

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