The trees that didn’t fall last summer


tems that allow men to try for bigger money the more they fall has been a dangerous practice. It is simply a holdover from bygone days that should have been stopped years ago by a more enlightened top manage-ment and top labor.
....The opportunities were there many times over the past 20 years to change the system to a standard day rate for falling and eliminate the risk of hurried work and resultant accidents. But management could never get together and insist on such a policy in their desire for more and more felled timber. The IWA has always stated that it is against all types of piece work, but neither could the leaders of labor really get together and negotiate with management the need for a standard day rate.
....Men of good intentions on both sides talked for years of an end to the incentive system of falling coastal trees, but the plain fact remains that neither side was willing to take a co-operative stand and accomplish the deed. In the meantime the rates and systems of incentive falling were readjusted and various formulas were adopted. This only increased the gap of earnings between fallers and the rest of the loggers.
....It became apparent that where a company could afford to pay a single faller well over $100 a day for incentive falling — and yet at the same time put a $150,000 log loader in the hands of an operator who earned at the most $50 a day — something was wrong. And still the leaders turned their backs on the problem. Not only did this tend to place the faller in a position apart from his fellow logger, but it tended to put a breach between

....The spring and summer of 1972 will long be remembered on the coast of B.C. for nearly four months during that time the forest industry suffered one of its worst setbacks in its history. Fallers walked off their jobs in most coastal camps in late April in a dispute with management and the International Woodworkers of Amer-ica over the issue of piece work that the fallers wanted maintained, against the policy of day rate for falling that the IWA leaders and management wished to instigate.
....This walkout of four months coupled with a three week strike in the coastal area in early July will be felt in the pocketbook of loggers and companies for a long time to come. To let this event pass by without gaining from it some preventive measures for a future like situation would be a foolish mistake.
....It is not “business as usual” now that the fallers have returned to work on a day rate basis. It is more like “business will be unusual for some time to come.” Most camps used up their inventory of felled and bucked timber while waiting for the fallers dispute to be settled. As a result it will take at least several months to fall new inventory and the watered production in all camps cannot fail to suffer in the meantime.
....The newspapers have been full of stories these past months on the fallers and their walkout. From this one thing should be certain., and that is, that the public is now better informed on this one aspect of logging than it ever has been before. It amazes me that there are still people living in this province today who believed until they followed those articles, that the fallers top the trees before they fall them. I had this statement expressed to me several times last summer in conversation with various people. Even in this province of trees around us we have not begun to get the proper story of forestry across to the public


....I am not going to delve into the rights or wrongs of last summer’s fallers dispute, except to hold it up as an example of how to sweep a serious problem under a rug even though it takes 20 years of sweeping. The fallers’ problem, which culminated in a work stoppage, can be placed on the heavy shoulders of top management and top labor. I do not believe that the blame can be put on the individual faller, even though many of them were the participants of the final serious act.
....The history of the problem goes back to World War II when the government was in desperate need of airplane spruce, and set up a bonus system in the spruce rich Queen Charlotte Islands for fallers. This bonus system and the shortage of qualified coastal fallers due to the war effort, set off a chain reaction in lower coastal camps that placed the fallers rates of pay far above the pay of other loggers of equal skills who were not fallers.
....As automation and the new logging techniques advanced through the fifties and sixties, the fallers were the bene-ficiaries of better, more powerful and lighter power saws. Falling is a difficult job on the coast of B.C. It is dangerous due to the size of the trees, the heavy underbrush and the problems of wind. It is a job that requires a knowledgeable man. The problems encountered in falling trees in the interior of B.C. where the wood is smaller and more uniform are vastly different than the problems on the coast.
....Experience is the best teacher in the coastal forest – experience and a knowledgeable old timer at your side. I believe that the teaching of fallers has left something to be desired over the years on the coast of B.C. Too many men have died and too many serious injuries have occurred in this phase of logging. Fallers make up to 10 per cent of our logging work force and yet nearly 25 per cent of the fatals and accidents occur in this category. Incentive falling or bonus falling sys-

British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1972

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the faller and his union officers. The result is history — and a sad history for the entire forest industry whereby it suffered heavy loss of profits, production and public relations.
....I, along with others, have spoken for a long time of the inability of these top leaders to truly get together over the vital problem of reducing the fatals and serious accidents in our forest industry. No one questions the sincerity of any of the leaders of management or labor in their individual desires for a safer industry. It is also true that this province has a fine if not a better workmen’s Compensation Board going for it than anywhere else in Canada. There are many fine line level safety people at work on the problems of safe work habits. Both the IWA and most of the large forest companies have hard working safety directors and staffs, and the results have been shown by all the above people — but not enough.
....There has to be a more modern and thorough way found to reduce the average of over 50 fatals a year for the past 20 years in this logging industry. At present various companies, with good intentions, have their own safety policies — but this is not an effective
enough overall policy. Too often it is still left to the WCB inspectors to appear at the scene of a fatal and, from their investigation, declare that another careless act has been committed that led to the death of another logger. There are not enough WCB inspectors — and I doubt if there ever could be — to cover all the territory of this vast forest industry and act in the capacity they know best — accident prevention officers.
....The problem of logging safety, not unlike the problem of the fallers, calls for the serious getting together of the leaders of union and management. They must, for the good of the work force and themselves, put aside their bargaining table maneuvers and discuss with diligence, a co-operative, intelli-gent approach to better enforcement of safety practices, better training of supervisory personnel, and a better atmosphere of co-operation between line management and labor in our logging camps.
....Delegation of authority to lesser levels than themselves will not do at this stage in time. The leaders must show the work force that they fully understand the problems that men are up against in the industry and that they
are co-operatively able to use their authority, free of the usual manage-ment-labor squabbles, and effectively bring about a better atmosphere for safe working practices.
....I would suggest thorough reviews, by these leaders, of the fatals that have occurred over the past 20 years. These meetings must be held quietly and with patience by all concerned. There is no way this time to sweep the problem under a rug and a failure to act can only eventually lead to a far more serious matter than the recent fallers’ dispute.
....The leaders of both management and labor are holding the positions they now hold by their own choice. They hold the authority and they have shown by their leadership of this industry that they can compete with all other forested countries. This forest around us in B.C. can be a safer place to work in. It is a difficult objective, but the recent summer should show that it would be worth working toward that objective now.

Keep out of the bight,

British Columbia Lumberman, September, 1972