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Wednesday, 16 March 1932

Mr BEASLEY (West Sydney) . - I desire to bring the following newspaper extract under the notice of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) : - .

By a. special amendment of the regulations, the Bruce-Lyons Government has abolished the basic wage for a large number of Commonwealth public servants as from to-day. Under the regulations governing the employment of juniors as assistants, telegraph messengers, ordinary messengers, telephonists, and launch boys in the Customs Department, it was provided that the adult minimum wage in the Commonwealth service would be paid on the employee reaching adult age. This regulation lias been abolished, fmd tlie employees in question have been notified that from to-day they will receive a junior's wage only. Previously these employees who had reached 2\ years automatically received the basic wage of £182 a year. They will now be reduced to the earnings of youths of 20 years, which incurs a drop of £39. That this is a direct blow at the principle of the basic wage is illustrated by the fact that in the telegraph branch, of SO junior assistants, 20 are 21 years of age and over. It is pointed out that it is no fault of the majority of the employees that they arc still designated juniors. Most of them have qualified themselves for promotion, but no vacancies have been created to which they could be appointed as adult workers. The only way in which these " juniors " who have reached 21 years can now receive the minimum base rate is by getting married. This is provided for by award.

Before the Commonwealth Public Service Salaries Reductions Act was introduced, these employees received £232 per annum. When that measure came into operation, they were reduced to £182; now they have suffered a further reduction, which makes their income only £143 per annum. Perhaps the Postmaster-General is not aware that that drastic alteration has been made. If strikes a vital blow against the system of wage fixation. After all, it is not the fault of these employees that they happened to be employed upon the class of work to which I have referred. They have qualified for promotion, but the department has not seen fit to transfer them to other grades.

Mr White - Would they not otherwise have lost their positions?

Mr BEASLEY - I am not aware that that is so. Surely the Government does not seek, by this process, to introduce a means to defeat the determinations of wage-fixing tribunals? I am aware that the Postmaster-General may not be able to give me an answer immediately, but as I may not have had an opportunity to ventilate the matter to-morrow, I bring it forward now in the hope that the honorable gentleman will give the matterhis personal consideration, and that he will not, permit any officer of his department to penalize these employees.

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