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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Conflict in the lumber industry Parkin, Frank Iorweth


Logging has traditionally been regarded as an occupation exceptionally prone to industrial conflict. This study analyses some of the forms which conflict takes, both between loggers and their employers and between loggers themselves, and suggests hypotheses to account for such conflict. A brief account of the early conditions in the industry is presented, with special emphasis on the hostility which existed between the men and their employers in the inter-war years as a result of the latter’s opposition to I.W.W. and unionizing activities. The argument is presented that the work ideology of the loggers which developed during this period was characterized by anti-authoritarian values and the concept of ‘freedom’ on the job. This ideology still survives today, though in somewhat diluted form. It is suggested that the increasing rationalization of the industry, and the imposition of strict work routines and increased discipline that this entails, runs directly counter to the loggers’ work expectations. The conflicts arising from this situation are documented by reference to material collected during a stay in a logging camp on Vancouver Island. A further source of conflict is seen to derive from the hazardous nature of logging operations. Because of the high fatality and injury rate in the occupation it is argued that the strict application of discipline demanded by the process of rationalization cannot be effectively imposed when those in positions of authority are held responsible for workers' safety. Evidence is also presented to show that the refusal to accept orders can be validated by reference to the moral priority of 'safety’ over the demands for productive efficiency. The dangers inherent in the job are also regarded as a ‘cost' which has to be offset by compensating 'rewards' of various kinds; the less acceptable the advantages are relative to disadvantages, the greater will be the loggers' propensity to reject authority. Because dangerous occupations have by definition heavy disadvantages for workers, it is suggested that they will thus be particularly prone to industrial conflict.

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