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Wednesday, 4 June 1902

Mr MAUGER (Melbourne Ports) - I should like to emphasize the remarks of the honorable member for Yarra as to the treatment of the Victorian tranferred public servants. The present position is unsatisfactory to the officers and to the Government, and the sooner there is a settlement of the 'question the better it will be for everybody. In another branch of the service, I should like to know why men who do the same class of work, should be paid ls. per day less in one department than in another. I refer to the shipwrights who are at present engaged in making telegraph poles. In the Victorian Assembly, a promise was made that these men should be paid the same wage as men similarly employed in the Railway department, namely, 8s. per day ; and that promise was kept. Since then, however, there has- been a general increase in wages, and the railwaymen now get 9s., though the post-office shipwrights remain at the lower rate.

Surely 9s. a da.y is not an unreasonable wage for shipwrights, especially when they are only casually employed. I cannot understand why the Postal department should ask men to work for less, than would be paid by outside, employers. There are only a few men interested, but they have a right to fair consideration. In connexion with Sunday work, I should like it known that in the post-office there are a number of men who work for seven days a week for 52 weeks in the year, and are not allowed anything like an equivalent for the extra work. No extra pay is permitted, but time off is allowed. That time off, however, is not at all commensurate with the 52 days' extra work.

Sir George Turner - What is the class of men ?

Mr MAUGER - Telephone exchange attendants, telegraph operators, clerks and messengers, to the number of 32 ; mail branch porters, drivers, >fcc.,. to the number of eight ; and five instrument fitters.

Sir George Turner - Does the honorable member say that these men are employed on every Sunday throughout the )'ear ?

Mr MAUGER - I am quoting from a return furnished by the Victorian Government, showing the number of public servants who work seven days a week. I know that somebody must work on Sunday, but I urge that these men should be allowed time off on some other day, say the Monday or the Tuesday. I can corroborate what the honorable member for Darling has said about the shameful way in which coachdrivers are sweated by mail contractors.

Sir Philip Fysh - A great number of the drivers own the coaches.

Mr MAUGER - I know the small man presents a difficulty, and in such cases the Government have no control. But when contracts are being let, some provision should be made for the protection of the drivers. I have known a coachman in Victoria to work day by da)r, year in and year but, without the slightest respite, for 15s. a week with board and lodging. These men lead wretched lives, as do the men on the boats which carry the mails in Northern Queensland. I suggest that when contracts are let, inquiry should be made as to the number of hours worked, and the conditions under which the employes live. Contractors ought to be compelled to treat their men like human beings and not like beasts of burden.

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