Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Tuesday, 3 June 1902

Mr MAUGER (Melbourne Ports) - I wish to emphasize what the honorable member for Bland has said in regard to the working of overtime by Customs officials and the payment of proper allowances to them. It is a notorious fact that the department has been guilty of working its employes overtime to' an extent which is exceedingly reprehensible, seeing that it is not being paid for. I would also urge upon the Government to abstain, as far as possible - seeing that we are at the beginning of winter - from discharging men The attractions of South Africa are very, very great, and unless we take steps to retain our workers we shall be losing, them altogether. I hope, therefore, that the Government will not unnecessarily discharge men at the present juncture. There is another matter to which I wish to direct special attention. Some eighteen months ago, in the Victorian Parliament, I moved for a return -showing the number .of Government employes who were working seven days a week. 1 have that return in my hand, and it reveals the fact that eighteen watchmen, fourteen boatmen, engine-drivers, &c, the master and crew of the steamer Lady Loch, 47 light-house keepers, two labourers, six clerks and five weighers, besides the tide inspectors and surveyors, come within this category. I recognise that it is necessary that light-house keepers should be employed for seven days a week, but I have yet to learn that they should not be relieved at certain .seasons of the year.

Mr Kingston - The light-house keepers are not under my control at present. As regards the other men, where they work seven days a week, it1 is a special term of their employment for which payment is made.

Mr MAUGER - I am quoting from a return supplied b}' the Government of Victoria. I know that the tide inspectors and surveyors, who receive a far higher salary than is paid to the watchmen and boatmen, are compensated for working upon Sunday. I do not object to that. But in this connexion I desire to read a letter which I have received only to-day from the wife of one of the employes to whom I have alluded. She says -

My husband has to work 365 days a year without an equivalent in the way of extra pay or holidays at any time. The higher paid officers are allowed extra a payment or days off, and I appeal to you to do something to give these Customs employes the rest which is their right.

Mr Kingston - It is a special condition of their employment that they shall work upon Sundays, and accordingly they receive a higher rate of pay. .

Mr MAUGER - The argument that extra pay has been given will not meet the case. These men ' receive no holidays. I hold that neither this Government nor any other Government have any right , to work their employes seven days a week all the year round. Under such circumstances what home life can there be ? A Commonwealth that can establish a public service such as we have established, and pay salaries such as we are paying has no excuse whatever for employing men seven days a week. I trust that the Minister will give this matter his earnest consideration. In my capacity as secretary of the Anti-Sweating League I had occasion some time ago to issue a circular to a number of warehousemen who were employing their watchmen seven days per week. To their honour, be it said, they arranged in Some cases to allow their watchmen one day's leave a fortnight, and in others one day a week. Surely the Government can do likewise. I quite recognise that a certain amount of work is necessary upon Sunday, but surely men can be relieved from duty upon some other day of the week. We should lay it down absolutely that

Commonwealth employes should not work more than six days weekly. How would honorable members like to discharge the duties of a watchman year after year, seven days a week, without any change whatever?

Mr Kingston - If there is a special payment made for Sunday--

Mr MAUGER - No payment will compensate a man for working seven days weekly.

Mr Kingston - Would the honorable member pay him for seven days and work him only six ?


Mr Kingston - Would the man consent to have his salary reduced, then?

Mr MAUGER - Certainly not. He is already being paid little enough. There should be relieving officers for both watchmen andboatmen, so that none of them should work more than six days a week.

Mr Kingston - But if I paid a seven days wage for six days' work, I should be raising their wages, and other officers would expect to be similarlytreated.

Mr MAUGER - Two of the watchmen to whom I refer are being paid only £1 00 a year. Does the Minister consider that too much for six days' work ? I contend that the Commonwealth Government should insist, as a matter of high policy, that no man in their service shall work, even as a matter of choice, and for extra remuneration, more than six days a week.

Suggest corrections