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“Digging into History: The IWA Employee Assistance Program”, by John Mountain, Vol. 1 No. 5 (May 2019)

Our EFAP Started as the EAP  – The year was 1990 and one of the very few areas where union and management were seeing eye to eye on was to the ongoing development of the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Back then, the commitment by both sides to an EAP continued despite labour disputes during that time, and because of this willingness to be responsible for the health and well-being of employees and their families, the provided a successful framework for union and management to deliver an essential service to their employees and their families.

Seeing as forest industry bargaining for the renewal of the 2014-2018 coast agreement has begun again, I thought it might be good to look back at one of the great programs that labour and management started developing way back in the early 70s. Twenty years later in the 1990s, it was considered a very valuable way to assist both management staff and union members with their life challenges. The EAP has now evolved into the Employee & Family Assistance Program (EFAP) and I find it interesting to look back at how it came about.

The main philosophy behind an EAP is that management and unions have a shared responsibility for the health and well-being of employees and their families. One of the programs which the IWA fully supported was that of an EAP which had been developed between the union and MacMillan Bloedel. The IWA stressed that it would not participate in EAP’s unless they were jointly administered.

Confidentiality was and still is the keystone in the implementation of an EAP and those promoting its activities must support the principle of confidentiality. This would be agreed upon in order for management and the union to take their responsibility seriously.

Participation in an EAP must also be done on a voluntary basis only and it’s that voluntary nature of the program in combination with the necessity of confidentiality must in no way be detrimental to an employee’s job or their ability to be promoted.

Management, union representatives and representatives of the EAP are not given the right to either diagnose or counsel an individual. Once again, participation in an EAP is voluntary and working employees may be encouraged to accept a voluntary referral from a co-worker or their supervisor. But it’s their choice to participate. Retired employees, their spouses, and dependents may also seek assistance as they are made aware of the confidential referral procedures.

Management’s traditional right to promote, direct, and discipline the work force is entirely separate from the EAP’s referral system. However, management reserves its natural right to discipline employees as they normally would under our collective agreement. Likewise, the union has a natural right to the grievance procedure enshrined in that same agreement.

The IWA’s joint participation in an EAP ensured that employers wouldn’t use the program as a back-door approach to demote or dump employees. It’s no surprise then that the EAP remains entirely separate from any hidden agenda that employers might have.

 So now back in 2019 and collective bargaining is well underway again. Times might be different and the people at the table might be different, yet I’m confident that union and management will get the collective agreement done and the rewards of their hard bargaining may result in another worthy program like the EFAP. I remain optimistic.

Thanks offered to Norman Garcia for the use of his archival notes on this piece.


The IWA Salutes the Past – Challenges the Future

BC Lumberworker Vol. XXXIV, No.1 – January 1971      Editor: Pat Kerr

1938 – As a result of a vigorous campaign on the part of the trade unions, and despite the opposition offered by the employers, the Provincial Government enacted the first Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The International appointed three International organizers, and the B.C. District Council named Tom Bradley and Lloyd Whalen organizers for B.C. with instructions to concentrate on the sawmills. The fear complex abated under legal protection.

In 1938, the Loggers’ Local, now 1-71, staged in July the biggest loggers’ dance yet seen in Vancouver as the beginning of an organizing campaign. In that year, the Local established a sub-office in a cigar store, the Woodworkers’ Cigar Store, 179 E. Hastings, Vancouver.

The Union’s problems were many in that year. The logging operators tried to circumvent the ICA Act by forming company unions. The Loggers’ Agency (Black’s) included a clause on employment contract slips requiring applicants to refuse to invite any person into the camps without company permission.

Fallers at Franklin River on contract rates complained that they could not compete with the new power saw gangs, as they were assigned to poor timber on the most difficult terrain. Many of them walked off the job. The Queen Charlotte loggers made a determined stand against wage cuts attempted by the operators. A constant fight was waged against the blacklist which was the employers’ most deadly weapon against the Union.

Unemployment was rife, and the Union organized an unemployed section, whose members, from time to time, undertook mass treks to Victoria asking work or relief. During this year the Union was deeply involved in the Blubber Bay fight, described elsewhere. The ICA Act was declared to be wholly unsatisfactory, because of loopholes for employer evasion, and the campaign for watertight legislation was again launched.

The IWA District Council established its offices in the Holden Building in close proximity to the loggers’ hiring hall.

1938 – In 1939, the Union made some headway in organizing the sawmills. The campaign to organize Fraser Mills, one of the toughest, secured the restoration of a wage cut in the previous year. It gradually began to dawn on sawmill and plywood plant workers that without organization they were helpless to raise their sub-standard wages or protect themselves against drastic wage cuts.

When the plywood plant workers demanded a wage increase, the large companies retaliated by large lay-offs. The plywood workers moved to affiliate and in 1939, the first plywood local was formed.

As World War II broke out the slogan adopted by the Union was “raise the pay a dollar a day”. During the early stages of the war, the Union was active in taking advantage of the increased demands on production. Plans were laid to get an industry-wide pay hike.

The Cowichan Lake Local won an agreement at Lake Logging which gained it union recognition, a safety committee, the established hours of work, no discrimination for union activity, and the re-hiring of employees after lay-offs. Its camps were regarded as models for that day.

Fallers and buckers working at Menzies Bay reported that, working in poor timber, they earned an average of only $2.00 a day. Englewood Camp, Wood and English, demanded a 15-cent an hour wage increase, and before arbitration was commenced, settled for ten cents. Chokermen were raised from $4.25 a day to $4.60 a day.

The Union’s first wage conference was held in 1939. The demands formulated were:

  • A minimum wage of 621/2 cents an hour;
  • An industry-wide agreement with all employers to include:
  1. Collective bargaining through a committee of the employees and provision for the peaceful settlement of disputes through arbitration.
  2. Seniority.
  3. Elimination of strikes and lock-outs for the duration of the agreement.
  4. Provision for the observance of regular holidays, time and one half for overtime, and double time for holidays.
  5. Recognition of safety committees elected by the employees.
  6. Provision of board and commissary at cost instead of the present profit basis.
  7. Provision for the check-off and employer-employee representation in hiring arrangements.
  8. Arrangements for leave of absence.

The minimum wage scale was approved as a means to prevent any employers paying below the accepted scale. The “cheat stick” method of scaling was denounced. Steps were taken to have loggers included on the Unemployment Insurance scheme. A shortage of loggers was reported, which enabled the QCI loggers to gain another 50-cent an hour wage increase. Lake Logging employees won the second wage increase for the year — ten cents retroactive.

Next time in Digging Into History, I’ll cover off the 1938 and 1939. Thanks to the BC Lumber worker for these excerpts.

I’m so glad to be playing a part in preserving the history of the IWA. If my story about the IWA created an Employee Assistance Program creates any further interest, I urge you to contact the Kaatza Museum staff. Next time in Digging Into History, I’ll take another deep dive into the archives and share some other interesting stories.

Until next time,    John

John Mountain is a retired United Steelworkers Canadian National Office Staff Representative and former IWA Local 1-80 Union Member. He lives in Chemainus and volunteers some of his time at the Kaatza Museum in Lake Cowichan.

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