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Strike against Weyerhaeuser ends.

Strike against Weyerhaeuser ends

A 6-week strike against Weyerhaeuser Co.'s forest product operations in Oregon and Washington ended when members of two unions approved new contracts that cut wages more than 20 percent. One of the unions, the Woodworkers, settled first for 6,200 employees it represents at logging operations, followed by the Lumber Production and Industrial Workers unit of the Carpenters union, which agreed to similar terms for 1,000 workers it represents at lumber mills. It was not immediately clear if other forest products firms in the Pacific Northwest would settle with the unions on similar terms, reflecting the difficulties the employers (and employees) have been experiencing in recent years as a result of increasing competition from lower cost operators in the region, in the South, and in Canada.

The 2-year Weyerhaeuser contract calls for an average pay cut of $2.90 an hour and benefit cuts of about $1. Prior to the settlements, mill workers averaged $18.19 an hour in wages and benefits and loggers averaged $22.36, according to the company.

The compensation cut was about the same as in an earlier company offer the workers had overwhelmingly rejected. A major difference that influenced the vote on the second accord was the dropping of a company proposal that promotions and job retention be based on employee "competence,' rather than seniority.

During the last 20 years, collective bargaining had been relatively stable in the industry, with the larger companies settling with the unions on uniform terms that were then extended to other companies. In 1983, the larger companies and the unions agreed on a wage and benefit package, but Louisiana-Pacific Corp. refused to follow the pattern and countered a union strike by hiring replacements and continuing operations. Eventually, the unions lost the right to represent workers at the company's western operations. In late 1985, Potlatch Corp. closed certain unprofitable operations in Idaho, reopening them only after 850 members of the Woodworkers union agreed to compensation cuts.

The 1986 round of bargaining was drastically changed when the pattern-setting Western States Wood Products Employers Association (also known as the "Big Seven') broke up and announced that the companies would bargain individually, and in some cases, on a mill-by-mill basis.

To counter this fragmented approach, the two unions attempted to coordinate their bargaining efforts and demands by forming a Forest Products Joint Bargaining Board. One of the Board's goals was to move toward eliminating the compensation differential between regions by winning larger increases for southern workers in negotiations scheduled for 1987.
COPYRIGHT 1986 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Title Annotation:forest products industry collective labor agreement signed
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Sep 1, 1986
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