........Comment by Bill Moore

...The forest around us

The contractors’ cause

....Can you give me one good realistic reason why the major forest corp-orations in this province continue to operate logging camps?
....Now, before one of the nice chaps at Forest Control Centre in the heart of Vancouver’s concrete jungle ans-wers this seemingly simple question, let me lay on you the following thoughts on the subject. Thoughts that have formed into opinions as I have wandered in and out of this forest around us. The question is not a mischievous one, nor is it one that requires immediate answering. It is a serious question posed to the men who hold very responsible positions in this forest industry.
....The large forest companies are made up of three essential functions: the logging or harvesting of trees, the manufacturing of products from those trees, and the selling of the product. Possibly I speak of these three functions in a simplistic way. But I want to be plain and simplistic to the subject of my question.
....The forest industry in this province as elsewhere has grown from what once were small firms, founded by some hardy people, into a number of very large integrated corporations. True there are still some small to medium size companies specializing in logging or manufacturing or both, but mainly, when one speaks of the forest
industry in B.C. we are referring to the six or seven large integrated com-panies that constitute the major logging camps, sawmills, pulp mills, plywood plants etc.
....It was not always thus. Economics of the times, or whatever reason, have amalgamated the many companies that once were into the few large ones we have today. The industry has simply followed the North American tradi-tions of the free enterprise system of many other industries. Grow bigger, grow more diversified – grow.
....I like the free enterprise system – it has fed me well. I don’t see a better system around the corner nor do I want to try any other system on for size. But, I worry, like a lot of others do today, about this system. In par-ticular I worry about the ability of the forest industry I have grown up in being able to continue on at the pace it has seemingly set for itself. Can we stand the bigness – and how big is big? Does big get clumsy? Does big not see its toes anymore? Can big be wasteful? And one question that really bugs me – Does big like being big, or are they unable to stop the swelling?
....Back at the ranch – and my opening question. As each year goes on I find it only makes me feel more certain that these big companies are stuck with the logging function. And I don’t think they like it! Logging, that is.
....I don’t think they now hold it – who the heck are “they?” “They,” in the case of the six or seven large integrated companies are the board of directors, the presidents and chaps like that. Now when I refer to chaps, you know of whom I speak. Anyway – I don’t believe the chaps like logging. What they really like is manufacturing and selling. That is where the action is for them. And it’s what they know best. It takes big plans and big money to build the plants. It takes a whole lot
British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1976

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of energy to compete not only with your neighbor corporation but the chaps in the U.S.A and the Scans and the multitude of substitute products for wood based ones.
....And, chaps, It’s showing, the fact that you don’t really care for logging. Some companies more than others, granted – but it’s showing in high costs, employee turnover and the ever widening gap between yourselves and the lads on the ground (the loggers). No offence meant, chaps, but as the great Durante once said, “That’s the situation that prevails.”
....You chaps like manufacturing. That’s a reasonably tidy business in this forest picture. And you’ve got some good efficient plants. Plants – be they saw-mills, pulpmills or plywood – can be clean, efficient, safe and can within reason be run like a good office. Logging is messy, subject to uncertain climatic conditions, hazardous, and does not run like an office. Mills are the known – logging is the unknown. Mills chug-a-lug their product – like a can of number three peas, or Stude-bakers. Logging is a new adventure and a different happening each time a tree is touched. Mills have become more and more automated thus drop-ping the frequency of exposure to hazard. Logging is far from automated in the same “safety sense” – and the exposure to hazard remains high.
....Safety in the mill, while not perfect, can be controlled by shields, guards, safety buttons, signs and closed circuit T.V. Safety in logging cannot be con-trolled by the same methods for it is spread out in the bushland over thousands of acres, and the hazards to the unwary are everywhere.
....I have a sort of gnawing feeling that the “mystique” of the high accident and fatal incidence in logging is one of the reasons “the chaps” don’t like logging. They don’t understand it. “Why all these careless acts?” Why are the careless acts repeated? Why did he do it when he knew better? Why?
....The “Whys” are a mystique, unless you live out there where they happen. They don’t happen in boardrooms or at the conference table – and they take an awful lot of human understanding to even cope with let alone try to solve. Managers worth their salt – and there are many of them, understand – have not had, in too many cases, the back-up from on high.
....I do not mean to sidetrack the question at the beginning of this article to a discussion on logging safety, but the subject of safety is so much a part of logging in large or small camps that it must be mentioned. Safety in log-


ging, in this point in history, is no respecter of large or small camps. Suffice to say that 50 men die in B.C. logging camps each year – and have been doing so for the past many decades!
....I, like a good many other Canadians worry about the bigness of our industries. Logging is a business that belongs to the small (I hate the word) or medium sized guy. Logging is really a specialty game. And it can be conducted in a more efficient cost saving manner by the small or medium guy than by the big 200 man camps that dot our coastline today.
....I take nothing away from the big camp managers when I say these camps are simply too big for efficient


operation today. The problems are immense, as I tried to point out in a recent article. The area of logging is large – and made more so by the new Forest Service guidelines. The union-management problems are often complex because of the size and breakdown of good communication. The inflationary costs of machinery, food, housing and services are near impossible to control. Close a big operation down for four or five months as happened last year and gasp at the overhead costs! I state that these managers carry an untenable load, and because of the “mystique” of logging, you chaps do not understand their position.
........................( Continued on page 56 )

British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1976  

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....I have said that logging is not a mill procedure – it is a business that de-mands tight management, intelligent management, flexible management. When the camp grows too large and the chain of command at ground level lengthens, logging is subject to costly problems. To be successful it needs great teamwork of management and crew. I believe that you will note that by far the majority of wildcat strikes that plagued logging a couple of years ago did not occur in the small to medium camps. They happened in the larger ones where the key word “communication” is tougher to handle.
This forest industry is too vulnerable to economic and political pitfalls when a major segment of the industry such as logging is controlled by the few large companies. If there was ever an intel-ligent time to plan to phase in the small logger – and phase out the big camps – it is now.
....This country was made great by the small independent business that took its chance on the free enterprise system – and if handled correctly, if given the breaks, with hard work could sometimes succeed. Logging to the independent is his end-all, his business. To the large integrated company it is only a phase. There is a vast difference of the feeling and finance in an “end-all” and a “phase.”
....There is much talk of the lack of productivity in the work force today. When this reference is made to logging I question the statements. Yes, the fallers don’t put down as much wood as the oldtimers did. But, the oldtimers didn’t have to cut down all the little trees the forest service compels us to today. Not that many years ago they didn’t have to cut down snags. And the industry can only blame itself for prolonging “day rates” until we were in such a mess with such high incentive rates that every one got mad. And chaps, I remind you that the big camps were the problem source of those extreme rates and the resultant problem of the resultant now shorter hours for fallers.
....It is said the camps need more track-sides today to get production. Well, if more time and energy were spent on tighter engineering there could be fewer tracksides and thus a saving. Actually rigging crews work harder today than in the old days because of shorter yarding and faster machines. Don’t blame the chokerman for low productivity – blame the foul-up that occurs in badly laid out landings and roads.
....And the productivity of booming grounds has not been solved by the introduction of dryland sorts. In a few cases where good planning and careful
studies have been made, they have been successful. In most they run from badly organized to awful! As the funny lady says – “An’ that’s the truth.”
....Chaps, logging has been swept under the corporate carpet. It has not been given a fair shake. It shows. And it doesn’t have to be that way.
....We need more schooling in the art of logging. (Are they really closing down the Nanaimo logging school?) We need more intelligent foremen, top hands and good road builders. We need closer, better supervision for all new men, and we specially need a better realization by industry leaders, government officials and the general public as to the hazards of this industry. And for the hundredth time I say we need the leaders of unions and top-top management to sit down to-gether in trust - forgetting all the old bargaining table wars - and come up with a new joint code of safety for logging. Not rules – the rule book is there. But a joint code to make that rule book work.
....If your big logging camps are giving you economic ulcers these days (the little guy gets little ulcers) why not have your next board meeting out at one of the camps? Why not get away from the smog of the city, the crowded elevators, and parking meters and settle down for a day or so amidst the fauna and flora.
....Generally speaking loggers are a pretty proud type of person. Their work demands a lot of ingenuity, quick decisions and stamina. They like to know what the boss looks like. I guess they’ve heard stories about chaps like Henry Ford walking through the plant each day. Funny how he built that empire by doing strange little things like that!
....It may be that while you chaps are having a look around some of the big camps you might see the wisdom of turning over more of your wood requirements to smaller units. It’s a two way street. The big company could benefit by lower cost logs, and the input of more small business in this industry is just plain healthy for the economy of the country.
....As earlier stated, this is not a question that requires an immediate answer. But it is a serious question that needs study and needs a better answer than the situation that now prevails. Let’s keep this industry strong by put-ting back into it the strength and en-ergy of the small businessman logger. Have a nice day, chaps – and do –

Keep out of the bight,


British Columbia Lumberman, June, 1976