Bargaining table warfare – forever?


....This bombardment of news about
the upcoming negotiation, strike threats, lock-out threats, illegal actions, and a multitude of babbles and rumors are quickly picked up by media and examined, enlarged and exaggerated and leave the readers or viewers with a pretty despondent feeling about their future. More and more one hears the talk change during the spring from “What do you think of the strike situation this summer?” to “How long will the strike last this summer?” This strike talk is fomented not just by the labor leaders in their threats to management, but also by management in its answers to labor.
....I believe we are in bad need of a realization by both sides that labor negotiations must return to the sanctified ground in which they belong — a closed room with no press leaks in the wall. But of course this is being naïve. We really know that both sides have to keep the pot boiling with bulletins all year long. In that way they keep the troops aroused and the ulcers working overtime — in everyone. What a way to live!
....Did it ever occur (sure it did) to the leaders I spoke of that there are some other items in the daily living of all of us in this forest industry besides bargaining tables and ultimatums? Did they ever (sure they have) that they and they alone could improve the inexcusable fatal and accident rate we have in B.C.’s logging industry?
....Fifty men or more is the 20 year average of fatal accidents in our woods. We have men in both labor and management who spend their lifetimes dedicated to the cause of accident prevention. But I put it to you

....Springtime — two summers and one winter ahead of us — the sap’s running in the trees — a logger can get his bones warmed with the sun — the buds are budding — and it’s time again for that eighth wonder of the world in B.C. — the negotiation bargaining table war between these two old friends of the forest around us — management and labor — Ah Wilderness!
....Perhaps one should not speak lightly of such a serious and really vital issue as the negotiation for a new master agreement. I know there are some pretty fine fellows who will spend months, and days and nights, trying to put a contract together and eventually they will despite the words — “impossible, irresponsible, never and possibly, doomed.”
....But really, just how long do a relatively few people in our society think the majority of people are going to allow this gamesmanship called management-labor negotiations to continue? I’ve heard people call it every name under the sun from kid stuff to empire building, but as one person I respect said of the entire exercise: “Show us a better way— under the present circumstances.”
....The truth is, there is just no better way under the present circumstances. And in our industry, and in others, the circumstances are these: We are living the good times. How long they will last will depend on the ability of the large nations to avoid depressions or great wars. And while the good times last, nobody — no politician, no labor leader or no management leader is apparently going to accept the only means of “changing the circumstances” — complete wage and profit control.
....Now there’s a five word phrase to warm the hearts of labor leaders, board presidents and free enterprise politicians. It’s one of those phrases that gets talked about a lot — sort of like Will Rogers’ famed quote: “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody ever does anything about


it.” And really what is a person to do about it — this monstrosity called labor-management negotiations? Surely people of the future will look back upon these times and call us idiots for the manner in which we have allowed this game of bargaining table warfare to close industry, put people out of work, cause bitterness amongst our people and totally disrupt our lives and economy.
....And who is to blame? Well you can get a good two-bit lecture on the blame from several sources. It just depends whether you are union, corporation, public or the so called innocent politician. It is an endless argument and it does not appear that it will be solved until some future generations deal with the problem and have the intelligence and daring to solve it.
....Certainly, for starters the name calling that goes on by both sides has to be considered as not conducive to sensible discussion or bargaining. When men in authority from management or labor come out with vindictives such as “bloodsuckers,” “communists,” “tyrants,” and “pinkos,” it makes one wonder about the caliber of negotiating ability such people possess at the table. Not that bargaining table warfare is a polite little game of tea and crumpets, but does it need to sound like the next atomic war? I am sure those people of the future, the sons of our sons, will have a better answer.
....If there are no cures, then possibly there are ways to ease the strain. I suppose it really narrows down to a very few persons on the side of management and on the side of labor who actually have the influence to put things on a better or worse track for all of us in this forest industry. The heads of about three or four of the top forestry firms (need I name them?) and the three or four top presidents of the IWA (if you don’t know their names — you’re not with it) have, whether they like it or not, the influence and muscle to bring about an easing of the tensions to this constant year after year bombardment of bargaining table war-

British Columbia Lumberman, May, 1972

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - (. page break )

that if those few men I spoke of could get over their hang-ups about each other for one day a month, and jointly work together and plan together they could be responsible for reducing the fatals drastically in five years.
....These men hold the influence and the muscle and unless they have the foresight to take a chance on each other for so vital a subject as a fatal accident — once a month — what chance do they ever have of solving the more intricate problems of the bargaining table war?
....Sure there are a dozen reasons why these men can’t get together. I’ve heard them all and I’m still not impressed. They all — management and labor — got where they are because they wanted to. Nobody held a knife to their back. They both represent the same people, and they both need the support of those people. It is just possible that if they ever did get an impressive project such as a “fatals committee” going they might just find out that as humans in a room free of negotiations they can accomplish jointly what neither has been able to accomplish single-handed — the public’s trust. It’s a long road to gain that trust back — a lot of statements and actions have confused the public about its forest industry.
....Possibly there is no way to really gain back the full trust of the public. But a realistic and meaningful try could be given to regain some of that trust if these men would take a chance. And Mr. Management, you have to make the offer — with no strings. Get together with those labor leaders and quietly plan an all out scheme of warfare on the reduction of fatals in our number one industry. Use


some of the energy you are both famed for in the other phases of your work, you will have the support of every man and woman in this industry and you don’t need government to help you.
....We need and we must have a new management-labor joint code of action to reduce fatals. We’ve got the rules, we’ve got the agencies — our topnotch WCB and out safety com-mittees — what we need is some leadership and only such joint leaders can give that.
....You never know, as bad as all this bargaining table warfare is, if you both tackled this big, real problem you just might find some of the other problems a little easier to solve.
....It’s not a case of “we can leave such things as fatals committees to our joint experts, we must devote our time to the bigger issues such as consolidating the union causes, or building the export markets, or raiding another union, or amalgamating with another corporation.” These issues are very important, but what is happening to our forest society out here in the west is that its leaders of union and management are locked into their ivory towers and have lost touch with the real and only issue — their own people.
....As stated at the beginning — how long do a relatively few people think they are going to continue with this bargaining table warfare game? Not much longer!
....Maybe a good long walk in this forest around us would cool the chaps off.
........Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, May, 1972