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West Coast lumber bargaining completed.

Bargaining in the West Coast lumber industry essentially ended in September, as the last of the major companies settled with the Woodworkers union and with the Western Conference of Industrial Workers (formerly the Western Council of Lumber, Production, and Industrial Workers), a unit of the Carpenters union. The round of bargaining was marked by a number of work stoppages, as employees pressed for restoration of compensation cuts they accepted in 1986 when the industry was in the throes of a recession. In the 1988 talks, management contended that while profitability had returned, complete restoration was not warranted because much of the rise in sales occurred in pulp and paper operations, rather than in lumber operations. Union officials conceded that the wage and benefit increases finally agreed on did not completely restore the 1986 cuts, which were generally described as being in the range of $1.25 to $1.65 an hour.

The first 1988 settlement, with Bohemia Inc., was viewed as a pattern setter for the industry by the unions, but not by the industry, which contended that the contract was too expensive. In the talks, management generally pressed for earnings gains to be in the form of annual lump-sum payments, while the unions pressed for increases in hourly wage rates. Both sides were adamant in their positions, triggering a work stoppage at three companies that later involved other companies. At the peak, about 9,000 workers were involved.

The first break in the stalemate came when Willamette Industries, Inc., agreed to a 4-year contract that proved to be acceptable to most of the other companies. Effective immediately, the 1,200 employees received $1,400 lumpsum payment, followed by a 3-percent wage increase in 1989 and 4-percent increases in 1990 and 1991. At the time of settlement Willamette's plywood workers averaged $9.77 an hour and its sawmill workers averaged $9.95.

Other terms included restoration of two paid holidays given up in 1986; an additional 40 hours of vacation pay for all employees with at least 10 years of service; a 10cent-an-hour increase in the company's pension financing; a 5-cent-an-hour increase in the night shift premium; a company obligation to increase its financing of health and welfare benefits to as much as $1.55 and hour, from $1.30, if needed to maintain current benefit levels; and an increase in the pension benefit rate to $22 a month for each year of service, from $19.50.

Companies that settled on 4-year contracts patterned after Willamette included Simpson Timber Co. (covering 1,300 workers), Georgia-Pacific Corp. (1,200 workers), and Daw Forest Production Co. and W-I Forest Products Co. (1,300 workers combined).

Some companies settled on 3-year contracts including benefit changes similar to those at Willamette. At BoiseCascade, the $1,400 lump-sum payment was accompanied by a 25-cent-an-hour wage increase for skilled employees, followed by general wage increases of 3 percent in 1989 and 1990. About 2,100 employees were involved. Champion International also agreed to a 3-year contract for 2,400 employees that was similar to the Boise-Cascade agreement.

At Weyerhaeuser Co., 6,300 workers were covered by an agreement similar to that at Willamette, except that the lump-sum payment could amount to more than $1,400 in the first contract year, depending on incentive output. Unlike employees of the other companies, Weyerhaeuser employees are eligible for distributions from a profit-sharing plan, which was improved. The profit-sharing plan was established in 1986 in return for the employees accepting a larger compensation cut ($3 an hour) than employees of the other companies. Weyerhaeuser was the only company involved in a work stoppage in 1986. It lasted 6 weeks.
COPYRIGHT 1988 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
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Title Annotation:Developments in Industrial Relations
Author:Ruben, George
Publication:Monthly Labor Review
Date:Dec 1, 1988
Words:609
Previous Article:United Paperworkers end 16-month work stoppage.
Next Article:Farm and construction equipment industry.
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