Fort Frances Times and Rainy Lake Herald

Increase of Wages Asked by Employees of Paper Mills and Pulp & Sulphite Plants Tie Up Mills. Saw Mill Employees on American Side Out.

The demand made by the employees of the Minnesota & Ontario paper Company and the Fort Frances Pulp & Paper Company not having being met by companies concerned on Monday that the entire staff of employees walked out thus tying up the big big industries at this point and across the river. The mills affected by this strike give employment to about 800 men, and some are among the largest mills on the continent.

When the Fort Frances representative of the companies was interviewed by The Times a statement of the position of the above companies was handed us which we published in part herewith. From a perusal of their statement it would appear that until the time limit for the award of the National War Labour Board has expired they consider the wage scale fixed by that board to be binding on both employer and employees.

The position that the companies take is summarized as follows:

  1. All of the Manufacturers concerned and the Trade Unions agreed to submit all disputed questions relating to employment and wage rates to the determination and decision of the National War Labour Board and to abide by such decisions and regulations.
  2. Notwithstanding several misunderstandings in relation to some of the provisions of the Award, the Minnesota & Ontario Paper Co. have thus far observed and adhered to said Award, together with all the decisions and instructions and interpretation made by the board in connection therewith.
  3. It is their purpose and intention to continue to observe and maintain the provisions and conditions of the Award until a mutually satisfactory agreement dealing with relations between the companies and their employees can be substituted therefore, as is provided in the Award, or until its terms will have expired by the limitation set forth therein, namely, “during the period of the war and for six month thereafter.”
  4. The Trade Unions, acting as we believe in good faith, notified the manufactures to meet them in conference on March 18th “for the purpose of preparing for a renewal of agreement and better understandings,” to be substituted for and take the place of the Award of the War Labour Board.. The Trade Unions had submitted and in advance copies of proposed changes in Working Conditions and Wage Scale, which provide for several changes in working conditions, which of themselves would create large increases in existing Wage Rate of approximately 15%.

The Unions also took the position that the Award of the War Labour Board expired on May 11, 1919, on the ground that the war ended November 11, 1918.

The Companies declare their intention to observe and carry out the Award of the War Labour Board for the full period for which it provides.

The Companies also declare their intention and willingness to enter into the negotiation of, and if possible to agree on, terms and conditions of employment and wage rates, to take the place of the existing Award of the War Labour Board, dealing with such subjects, not later that 30 days after such declaration of peace by the President of the United States.

From what we can learn the demand made by the striking employees is fifteen percent increase in wages over the War Labour Board’s schedule for all employees included in the printed schedule of the I.B. of paper makers of 1918. Where 15 percent will not bring the employees up to the 1918 schedule, an amount would be added that would equal such positions in the schedule as would bring the rates up to the Paper Makers’ schedule of 1918. And for all other employees, eight cents per hour over the War Labour Boards’s schedule.

It is asserted by the employees that the increase in the cost of living since the 1918 schedule was promulgated is over 15%. They claim that since the war has ceased for six months that they are entitled to a new schedule of wages consistent with the increased cost of living.

That the situation in Fort Frances and International Falls is not merely local is very noticeable in a purview of the labour situation throughout the continent. It is generally conceded that until conditions generally assume more nearly normal than is now existent in the adjustment of these labor matters should be dealt with by the government. The price of labour is dependent on the cost of the labour man to live, and the increasing of wages will not help matters very much if the price of foodstuffs and other necessities of life continue to advance. In the meantime the production of the nation’s wealth is at a standstill. A general adjustment in the interests of all is and imperative necessity.