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Wednesday, 29 November 1905

Senator GIVENS (Queensland) - In connexion with the vote for the Government Printing Office, I wish to bring under the notice of the Government a matter which requires serious consideration. The Commonwealth has purchased a number of linotype machines for use in the Government Printing Office. Operators have been engaged to work them. So far, those men have been given no definite status. The rights of other public servants are conserved by the Public Service Act and the regulations. But these men, who fill responsible positions, have no status whatever. They may be dismissed at a moment's notice. In addition to that, they are doing their work at lower rates of pay than are received by men who are doing a similar class of work outside. Furthermore, they do not know, according to the statement of the Treasurer, whether they are working for the State or for the Commonwealth. On the nth of September, the operators, very properly desiring a settlement of the questions relating to them; formed a deputation, which was introduced by Mr. Tudor, a member of the House of . Representatives to the Commonwealth Treasurer. In the case which they placed before the Treasurer, they asked first-

That all operators engaged on day work be paid at the rate of £4 per week ; those employed on night work to be paid at the rate of £4 10s. per week.

Let me point out that these are lower rates than are currently paid in outside offices to men who are doing the same class of work. In some offices, linotype operators are paid £5 per week. Why should not the Commonwealth pay those who are doing its work a similar rate? The next request which they put before the Treasurer, was -

That overtime work be paid for to all operators after completing an ordinary day's (or night's) work.

No more reasonable request could be made to any employer than that. The present absurd system is that the men are compelled to work a full week of forty-two hours before they get a single hour's overtime pay.

Senator Stewart - That is the system which prevails right through the service.

Senator GIVENS - If . these men are not allowed to have the same rights as other Commonwealth servants in other respects, why should they be compelled to accept the disabilities under which other officers labour? If they accept the disabilities, undoubtedly they should enjoy the rights as well. If I work in a mine or in a factory, after I have completed my eight hours' work, overtime payment begins, if I am expected to work longer. During the recent long sittings of the House of Representatives, these linotype operators had to work fourteen hours a day. It was most arduous work. But they only received the ordinary pay. There is nothing under the present system to prevent their being employed forty-two hours at a stretch before they receive any overtime payment. It should be remembered that the operators are only paid time and a quarter, when any overtime is allowed to them, whereas in accordance with the ordinary rate prevailing in the trade they should be paid at the rate of time and a half.

Senator Mulcahy - Are they engaged during the parliamentary recess?

Senator GIVENS - Yes.

Senator Mulcahy - On what work?

Senator GIVENS - On the same class of work as they do now. They have to work forty-two hours per week, and even if they put in that time at one stretch they would not get one farthing's extra pay.

Senator Playford - They were engaged by Mr. Brain, a State officer, partly for State work and partly for our work.

Senator GIVENS - But they are working our machines and doing our work. It appears that they are to be kicked from pillar to post, simply because the Minister shelters himself behind a plea of divided authority. That is not a proper position for the Commonwealth Government to assume. We are responsible for employing them, and should see that they are properly treated. Another reason which they put before the Treasurer was -

That the position of all operators be properly defined, and an endeavour made to be gazetted as permanent employesin a similar manner to all other branches of the Federal Public Service.

That was an eminently reasonable request to make. But after an interval of six weeks, during which Sir John Forrest was incubating the matter, he hatched out the following reply: -

Department of Treasury, Melbourne,

Sir,27th October, 1905.

In reference to the requests made by a deputation which you recently introduced to me respecting the position of the linotype operators employed in the Government Printing Office, I beg to inform you that, after giving the matter very careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that it is not possible to place these men on the permanent staff, and, further, that I can make no alteration as regards their rate of wages, and the matter of overtime.

He does not give any reason, except that he cannot do it. The letter goes on -

With respect to the question of holidays and vacation leave, the Government Printer informs me that these men will not be called upon to perform night work longer than about six months in each year, and, further, that arrangements have lately been made which will obviate their working more than the usual hours at night.

It has also been represented to me that to grant vacation leave, as asked for, would seriously embarrass the State Government in the administration of the Government Printing Office - possibly to the extent of constraining that Government to reconsider its arrangement with the Commonwealth.

For your information, I may explain that cue of the arrangements between the two Governments is that each permits the other the use of its machinery. This being the case, the linotype operators are not distinctively Commonwealth employes, because they also work for a State, and are also paid for such work by the State ; hence, they are practically only partially Commonwealth employes.

But the Commonwealth pays them.

Senator Playford - The State pays a proportion of the wages.

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