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Wednesday, 10 June 1970

Mr HULME (PETRIE, QUEENSLAND) (Postmaster-General) - In answer to the first part of the honourable member's question I would say that I believe that every member of this House would regret (hat the public is being seriously inconvenienced by the actions of the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists in stopping work on the last 2 Saturdays and by the decision of that' union at its meeting of Saturday last to continue rolling stoppages during this week. A great deal of inconvenience has bien caused. Looking into the future, 1 believe that the number of telegrams that will be sent through the Post Office system will be substantially reduced. What effect that is likely to have on future employment in this area is impossible to say. I know that the Department and the Public Service Board have spent a tremendous amount of time in discussions with all the unions associated with the Post Office. They do their best to come to what agreements they can. But some of these matters of course come within the responsibility of the Public Service Arbitrator and even the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.

In relation to the claim for an increase of 6.6%. I point out that when the Australian Postal Workers Union was appearing before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission the Union of Postal Clerks and Telegraphists sought leave to intervene in order to lodge a claim. The Arbitration Commission gave the union permission to produce oral or written evidence. This was done and the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission decided against the Union claim for an increase of 6.6%. I believe that the Union has had every consideration by the Public Service

Board, the Public Service Arbitrator and also the Commission. The result has been that since 1st January last year, in the minimum area of wage levels for this union there have been increases of between 12.6% and 17.2% and in the maximum levels, between 12.6% and 14.4%, excluding the 3% derived from the national wage case. I understand that this means in total a rise of $580 to $600 in the maximum area.

The other point of dispute - or so it is said to be - is the 5-day week. I would say to the House that confusion has been put into the minds of people in relation to what is a 5-day week. In some areas this means work from Monday to Friday inclusive, with no work on Saturday or Sunday. In this area it is intended to be a 5-day week within the concept of an essential service working .7 days a week. There has been a good deal of discussion about this arrangement. The Government determined that post offices in general must stay open on Saturday mornings to serve the Australian public. However, it was put to me by the Secretary and the President of the Union last week that indeed what should now happen is an extension of the hours on Fridays from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., with adjustments in relation to Saturday morning work. When I pressed this matter a little further, believing that they were putting a suggestion for an extra hour on Friday and an hour less on Saturday, I discovered that really they were asking for a reduction of hours Monday to Thursday so that postal employees would have the extra hour available to them on Friday, and in addition there would be a reduction of from 1 hour to H hours on Saturday morning. That would mean that all Post Offices that now close at 10 a.m. or 10.30 a.m.-

Mr Uren - I rise on a point of order which is further to my point of order earlier about your ruling in regard to Ministers keeping their replies short. This has been a continual abuse of question time and it is a reflection on the Chair.

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