Wages and Benefits in Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard Mills

Monthly Labor Review, June 1989 | Go to article overview

Wages and Benefits in Pulp, Paper, and Paperboard Mills


Wages and benefits in pulp, paper, and paperboard mills According to a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, straight-time earnings of production and related workers in pulp, paper, and paperboard mills averaged $12.92 an hour in September 1987.(1) This was one of the highest averages among manufacturing industries included in the Bureau's industry wage survey program.(2) Pay levels, however, varied by type of establishment, averaging $14.38 in pulp mills, $13.30 in paperboard mills, and $12.72 in paper mills.

Contributing to these wage levels were such factors as the concentration of highly skilled workers from the machine rooms and maintenance departments, where occupational earnings frequently topped $13 an hour, and the prevalence of labor-management agreements, which covered more than nine-tenths of the industries' production workers. The United Paperworkers International Union (AFL-CIO) was the predominant union, except in the Pacific States, where most workers were covered by agreements with the independent Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers.

Average hourly pay in pulp, paper, and paperboard mills in September 1987 was 26 percent higher than the $10.22 reported by a similar survey conducted in July 1982.(3) This increase, averaging 4.6 percent annually,(4) compares with a 25-percent rise (4.3 percent a year) in wages and salaries for all nondurable goods manufacturing industries between June 1982 and September 1987, according to the Bureau's Employment Cost Index.

In contrast to rising wages, production worker employment in the three industries fell by 7 percent (1.4 percent annually) between the two surveys, from 150,200 workers in July 1982 to 139,777 in September 1987.

Among six regions for which data could be presented, average hourly earnings ranged from $14.49 in the Pacific States to $11.12 in the Middle Atlantic region. In the Southeast region, where three-tenths of the production workers were employed, hourly earnings averaged $13.52.

Nearly three-fifths of the production workers covered by the survey were in nonmetropolitan areas, where occupational pay averages were generally higher than in metropolitan areas.(5) Regionally, the proportion of workers in nonmetropolitan areas ranged from seven-tenths in New England to three-tenths in the Middle Atlantic region.

Fifty-two occupations, accounting for almost one-half of the production work force, were selected to represent the wage structure and manufacturing activities in the three industries. General maintenance mechanics, who perform the work of two or more maintenance trades rather than specializing in one trade or one type of maintenance work, constituted the largest and highest paid occupation studied separately; the 9,555 workers in the job averaged $16.50 an hour. Other skilled maintenance occupations, including electricians, machinists, millwrights, and pipefitters, had pay averages of at least $14.73 an hour. At the other end of the wage distribution were the 1,166 janitors, who averaged $10.38 an hour. In the machine room, where paper is manufactured, average hourly earnings ranged from $15.29 for paper-machine tenders to $11.97 for fifth hands, who assist in removing finished paper rolls from paper machines.

Two jobs--guards and truckdrivers--were surveyed for the first time by BLS in pulp, paper, and paperboard mills. Their average hourly earnings were $11.22 and $11.40, respectively.

In September 1987, nine-tenths of the production workers were paid time rates, under formal plans providing single rates for specific job categories. Many mills had several job categories, each with its own pay scale, falling within one BLS occupational definition. Some of the pay determinants were the type of pulpmaking process, grade of paper or paperboard manufactured, and size of machine used to make paper and paperboard. For example, hourly earnings in the pulpmaking department usually were higher for workers using the sulphate process rather than the sulphite process, pay generally averaged 25 to 50 percent higher for workers producing newsprint and groundwood paper than for those producing boxboard, and pay levels were progressively higher as the width of the papermaking machinery used increased from 100 inches or less to 301 inches or more. …

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