A four-year contract offer by Longview Fibre Co. would hold workers to one 2-percent pay increase between now and 2010 and would sharply cut their health benefits under employment and future retirement, according to documents distributed at a union meeting Monday.

It wasn't the news that Fibre's pulp and paper workers were looking for as they voted Monday on whether to authorize a strike should negotiations over their next contract break down.

"The fat right now is on the salary side," said a union member who declined to be named because the union had agreed not to issue official press statements. "We've lost 300 workers in six years."

Under a July 5 contract proposal by Fibre, employees' share of health-care contributions would scale up until 2010, when workers and pre-Medicare retirees would contribute 25 percent of their monthly health-care premiums. Today, employees' premium contributions are held to fixed caps --- $50 a month, for example, for a family of three. If adopted, the proposal could cost workers hundreds of dollars a month. After 2009, the offer also would remove medical coverage for new retirees. Currently, Fibre covers medical premiums for retirees who are too young for Medicare coverage.

Along with a 2 percent raise in 2007, Fibre is offering workers lump payments of $1,200 in 2006 and $500 in 2008. Other changes would include doubling the percentage of income eligible for the company's 401(k) match, from 2 percent to 4 percent.

Paul Latta, who covers Fibre and the timber industry for Seattle brokerage firm McAdams Wright Ragen, said Monday that he was unsure what effect labor unrest might have on the buyout proposal by Obsidian Finance Group and The Campbell Group.

"Any time there's any kind of switching of company ownership, things tend to change, but it's hard to see whether that change would be good or bad," Pallesen said. "Most often, when somebody buys somebody, they're going to downsize to pay off the debt. That doesn't mean it's going to be in Longview."

"If they want a revolving-door employment system, I'm willing to give it to them," he said. "I'd be more than happy to ply my trade elsewhere," though not every Fibre employee is lucky enough to have a marketable trade to fall back on, he added.

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Wife of worker wrote on July 11, 2006 3:08 PM:"Mind your own biz WOW and dibbz. I am so sick of people thinking that if you work at Fibre or Weyer Co you have a golden ticket. I dare either of you to do my husbands job for ONE DAY! You would not be able to handle it. He has one of the most dangerous jobs at that place and SHOULD be compensated nicely for it. As for medical insurance for retirement, yeah so? You can live off of medicare and the government if you want to, but when you spend years making people money they need to step up and take care of the people who have made them. You are telling the workers to roll over and take it? You are sure not pro-union are you? Union is what made this country. So what if they strike? Don't you stand up for what is right? Wait you are the ones running away for disaster not to it to help. You 2 are what is wrong with this country, to into themselves to see the writting on the wall. Get a clue and get educated."

Chris wrote on July 11, 2006 1:22 PM:"Just find it hard to believe that the owners would really treat their employees like this. Most employees have been their years and made them, (Owners) lots of money. I can only guess at how they,(workers) must feel, getting this kind of feed-back from someone they have done so much for. I realize the owners have helped by giveing them employment. This is just not a time to be so hard. There is to much going on with our world right now. The workers need to feel their employers are with them and tring to get things back on tract. Not chop them down. "

dibbz wrote on July 11, 2006 10:27 AM:"hope you millworkers have been saving some of that hard earned money for a rainy day.. the weather forcast is calling for rain."

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