A dark era

The fall and winter of 1986 will be long remembered as a black era in the affairs of the B.C. forest industry. The effects of the strike will leave not only employees and companies in serious fin-

by Bill Moore
long as speeding pickups roamed long distances from side to side.
....The story of coastal fallers and the problems that surrounded this cate-gory of loggers is important to the era and typifies much of the times.
ancial condition, but will leave scars in the minds of many that may never be erased.
....One point stands out in these past months of bitter negotiating. The word itself – contractor – is not clearly understood by the public. And in the heat of the argument over “no contracting out,” many have forgotten that contracting in many forms has been a part of the forest industry from its infancy.
....In the very busy years of the 1960s and 1970s – when there were never enough loggers for the demand – most men were on day rates and only a steady but minor percentage of sub contracts were issued. Certainly not enough to worry the hierarchy of the union.
....While the companies represented by FIR must be certified IWA oper-ations, their sub-contractors do not have to be IWA. This has been a long standing sore spot with the union and has certainly contributed to the pre-sent dispute. FIR member companies have been encouraged to persuade sub-contractors to join the IWA – but in the final analysis it has been up to the union itself to address the sub-contractors and get them certified, no matter how small they are.
....Through the 40 year history of union-management negotiations, there have been six major work stoppages due to breakdowns in negotiations in the sawmill-logging sector of the coast of B.C. This in the light of North Ame-
rican labour relations could be con-sidered a pretty good record. Gener-ally the strikes lasted a month with the exception of 1959, that went on for nearly two and a half months.
....What has gone wrong this time?
....In the golden days of great forest products profits from, let’s say 1965 to 1975, there were never enough well trained employees or supervisory per-sonnel to go around. We had a serious labour shortage, particularly in the coastal logging camps. Inexperienced and untrained men were at work in most camps and the result was poorer supervision, lower production and a heavy accident rate.
....The name of the game was ‘get by,’ keep moving. Give a hooktender an extra hour over his regular rate. Give a rigging slinger or a chaser two-thirds if he looked a bit bright. Managers and foremen didn’t really see some of the glassy eyed loggers on Monday morning, if they could crawl out of their crummy.
....What was the effect of all this sort of “do not disturb” atmosphere? Accident records improved very little over those years. There were and always will be the ones who care about real safety in management and labor, but they are too often outnumbered by those who prefer to live by their own rules – generally careless rules. The walking wounded system was seen in too many camps, particularly the larger ones. And the mood of safety was never there as
....From the days of the Second World War, when the hand fallers had been given bonuses to work in the Queen Charlotte Islands, a two-tier social system came into play in coastal camps. Fallers were paid by contract – so much money for so many thousand board feet felled and bucked in a day. Most all other loggers were paid by day wages. As the negotiations pro-ceeded each year the fallers would eventually wind up making twice as much as a machine operator handling a several hundred thousand dollar log loader or tower.
....This was alright as long as there was a good supply of fallers. But as mentioned before, the era of 1964 – 1975 brought prosperity and a lack of experienced fallers along with the other logger categories.
....To the dismay of the companies, falling costs soared. The ground was getting steeper and the quality wood was tougher to reach. A number of fallers formed together and demanded a better pricing system in the spring of 1972. This resulted in what was known as the Falling Strike of that summer. Once the felled and bucked timber was hauled out of the woods, the camps were shut down. They didn’t reopen until September, and with the abolition of contract falling and the instigation of day rate falling.
....This is really when the contracting out style of various phases took off. There had always been a few compan-
                         (Cont’d on pg. A10)
British Columbia Lumberman January, 1987                                                                                                                       A9

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Bill Moore . . .
(Continued from pg. A9)

ies that specialized in contract falling, and soon their business grew. But added to this was a new style of contract faller. A manager or a foreman in a camp would take out a contract with possibly three or four other fallers. They would form their own company, carry all the WCB, MSA and other benefits the fallers had with the big company and be paid by a contract rate. This meant all the fallers went off the big company seniority lists, and the larger company was free of the costly items of WCB and MSA.
....Bigger and more modern machines were coming along as the 1970s got under way. They were expensive – up to three quarters of a million dollars – and they cut manpower. Grapple yarders with good area engineering and a go-getting crew could drastically cut costs, and double shifts could further cut costs.
...Hydraulic log loaders and hydraulic backhoes would cost lots of bucks, but

. they brought the cost of loading logs and building logging roads down. And that was the name of the game as we approached what would be the recession. It was just before the 1980s started that some companies, seeing the benefits of the new falling contracts, decided to contract out their tower and grapple yarding to their employees. This was successful for both sides, so it brought on more and more of what were known as labor contracts. The company supplied the machine and serviced it, and the loggers did the contract logging for their own smaller company.
....Then the recession hit us between the eyes. Big new expensive machinery with banks charging up to 22 percent on bank loans as interest rates soared and the markets for forest products fell.
....These years were not without their problems between major companies and their stump to dump contractors. Prices were cut, sometimes unfairly, if one were a small company owner. But survival was ahead when forest prod-

ucts came back into demand as they did at the beginning of 1986. The rest is present day to day history. A strike that can only hurt everyone and have no gain for anyone.
....The stump to dump contractors are hit the hardest. The drain of their resources from the summer of 1986 until winter will be the hardest for all to take. Some may go broke.
....The IWA will have to do something it has never wanted to do – deal individually with volts of smaller companies – the new contractors. How much easier it was to collect dues and direct assessments when they dealt with a few larger firms. Times have changed, and to this observer it would appear the leaders of the International Woodworkers of America have not kept pace with those times.
....This column was written near the end of November, and since then the strike seems settled.
....It appears that a Royal Commission will hear the key issues of contracting out and flexible work schedules with compensating systems. This report will be due in March, 1988. It will be most interesting to watch the laundry of the IWA and the industry being examined by such a commission.
....The public may enjoy it more than the television soap operas.
....Maybe – just maybe – some of the longstanding bitterness that we have seen surface in the IWA during the strike will turn to a bit better under-standing.
....And also maybe – just maybe – the large companies will ease up on the supposed quick-fix of some styles of contracts they were handing out.
....When you boil it all down, supervision – good intelligent super-vision – will bring about the best long term profit results for all of us, large and small, individual and corporate.
....So let’s start educating for a better industry for all of us.
....And let’s,

Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore

A10                                                                                                                     British Columbia Lumberman January, 1987