May 13, 1953

LIB

Charles Henry

Liberal

Mr. Henry:

I shall not detain the committee long, but there are two brief questions concerning mail deliveries and postal labour conditions which I should like to place before the minister at this time. I realize that he is going to speak and give a statement on conditions prevailing in the city of Toronto.

My first question is as to the delivery of mail, and my second is as to labour conditions prevailing as between the employees and the department. My questions therefore are these. What effect will the erection of new postal station "Q" in Rosedale riding have on mail delivery generally in the area and what new facilities, if any, is the department providing there to help provide better mail delivery? Will the minister put on record the substance of the very carefully prepared statement which he gave to Toronto Liberal members, if not to other members from Toronto, toward the end of April with respect to labour conditions prevailing and advances made in the settlement of matters in dispute and under negotiation as between Toronto postal employees and the department?

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Subtopic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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Mr. Cofe@St. Jean-Iberville-Napierville

If I may be allowed to answer this question

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about Toronto postal station "Q", I should like to do so. The new building will provide greatly improved accommodation for postal patrons. There will be a night box lobby, where lock boxholders can get their mail at night. The building will accommodate a larger number of letter carriers, which will increase the area of delivery from that centre. The carriers will be closer to the beginning of their walks in many cases, and will be able to start delivery somewhat earlier. There will be better parking accommodation for the public. There will be improved tailboard space for post office vehicles. It will be near the new subway station, which will be one-half block east. It is located near the busy intersection of Yonge street and St. Clair avenue, but will be slightly off Yonge street, which will reduce possible traffic congestion.

To answer the hon. member who spoke prior to the hon. member for Rosedale, may I say that the North Bay post office has been placed in category A. Funds have already been made available in the amount of $175,000. The site is available and plans are actually being studied.

I do not want to make as long a speech as that which my hon. friend made but, if I may, I should like to deal briefly with the questions on which he touched. I want to tell him first that although he stated that the employees had never heard anything from the department, I think that statement is not quite accurate. I myself saw a long letter from my predecessor answering the association on all points which were mentioned in the letter from the association. I do not want to deal with all eight points, but I may tell my hon. friend that since that time some of those points have been solved.

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CCF

Joseph William Noseworthy

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Noseworlhy:

Only one.

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PC

Charles Delmar Coyle

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cole (SI. Jean-Iberville-Napierville):

For instance, the check-off is a matter which has been settled. It has been granted, and regulations are actually being prepared.

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CCF

Joseph William Noseworthy

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Noseworlhy:

That will make two out of the eight.

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PC

Charles Delmar Coyle

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cole (Si. Jean-Iberville-Napierville):

He spoke about the five-day week. The question of the five-day week is one which applies to the civil service as a whole. We cannot deal with it in isolation as it affects the Post Office Department. The government has already expressed the view that the five-day week will be considered where (1) it does not involve any increase in staff; (2) it does not involve any increase in cost; and (3) there will be no deterioration in service. It is quite evident that the five-day week cannot be applied to the postal service

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with our present staff. We would have to increase the staff and increase the expenditures. Since the postal service of the department does not fall within the conditions expressed by the government policy, we could not at present proceed with the five-day week in the postal department.

When the hon. member speaks about overtime, I should tell him that we received the representations of the associations, including this one he mentioned. Their officials contact our own officials and discuss all these problems. The employees themselves told us that they did not want to work overtime. We agree with them. When these employees have done a good day's work we feel, as do they, that that is sufficient. At present we give equivalent time off or pro rata payment in cash. On account of fluctuating volume it is difficult to avoid overtime entirely. We have based our staffs on the average volume. When the mails are light, employees are released as soon as the work is completed; when the mails are heavy, overtime is sometimes necessary. We make no deduction when employees are released early, but we do compensate them when additional time is worked.

As I told you before, employees have indicated that they do not wish to work overtime at all, and we are in sympathy with them. We are therefore studying ways and means to readjust staffs so as to eliminate overtime by increasing our emergency staffs.

My hon. friend made comparisons between the salaries we pay here and those paid in the United States. The economies of the two countries are quite different. Let me mention another item. In Canada, besides paying the salaries of the employees, we furnish them with their uniforms. In the United States the employees are obliged to buy their own equipment, to pay for their boots and suits. Therefore you start with a difference in the salary itself. Besides that there is a huge difference in the economy. Incidentally, I might add, in the United States they have annual deficits of over $600 million. If my hon. friend will read the letter sent by my predecessor-I do not recall having written myself, but I have read the letter sent by my predecessor-he will find that all the points he raised in his speech were dealt with.

The officials of the department are always in contact with representatives of the associations. We are ready to co-operate with them. As far as salaries are concerned, even though it is a question which falls under the jurisdiction of the civil service commission we are ready to co-operate with them and help them make their representations. I do not know of the bad morale which the hon. member intimated existed in the service. We feel

that the workers have a natural right to make their own representations, and in the department all our officials are trying to help them out with their problems. That is done in all spheres, whether it is with the department or the joint council or even before the civil service commission.

I do not know whether I have covered all the points brought out by my hon. friend, but he will find all the explanations in the statements made by the Prime Minister and in the letter I have already mentioned.

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LIB

Henry Alfred Hosking

Liberal

Mr. Hosking:

Without taking up too much of the time of the committee I should like to make a few remarks in regard to the department of the Postmaster General. This is one department that deals with more Canadians than any other department of government. By and large the people of Canada appreciate the services they get from the post office more than they appreciate any service given by the government. Everyone likes to get his mail, and on time. In saying this to the minister I would hope that he might pass it on to his staff. I believe the mail service in Canada is second to none. I should like to commend his employees for the good job they have done.

I should like to thank the minister personally for setting up a committee to study the conditions of the rural mail couriers. I am certain that those who receive mail through the rural mail delivery will agree with me when I say that the couriers are the best and most loyal employees of our government. They deliver the mail at all times, in all kinds of weather and under very difficult conditions. I hope that when the recommendations of the committee are dealt with these worthy employees will be satisfactorily paid for their services.

I hope when our present Postmaster General is Postmaster General in the next parliament he will consider setting up a committee to study the whole postal service, and that it will be possible for this committee to make recommendations to the civil service commis^ sion in regard to implementing a five-day week with satisfactory salaries. If the same careful study is given to that problem that was given by the committee in the present session, we shall be able to straighten out many of the difficulties of the staff that we find in the postal service today.

I should like to see consideration given to working conditions, so that employees would not have to work overtime. The facts the minister has cited with respect to the paying of carriers for overtime work and permitting them to quit as soon as their job is done on the light days are reasonable. If we had a committee during the next session it would give us an opportunity to look into all these

factors. I certainly join with all members in appreciating the things the minister has done in the past year.

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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Bryce:

I should like to draw one or two matters to the attention of the Postmaster General. Before I do that I want to say how pleased I was to find that the government was able to put $25,000 in the estimates of the Department of Public Works for a new post office at' Selkirk. It is badly needed, and I do hope that the $25,000 is not going to be a revote year after year, but that it will be used.

I had intended when I spoke on this matter to quote an article from the Selkirk Enterprise, which deals with the congestion at Selkirk. It says:

New Post Office Needed in Selkirk

Selkirk's present post office was never planned to accommodate the increased amount of service which this busy town of 6,200 now demands. Built over 40 years ago when the population was only 2,900, this same post office is now handling many times the amount of mail, stamps, postal notes, et cetera, which passed through the office more than forty years ago.

The tremendous pressure of peak periods such as was experienced during the ten days before Christmas is not fully understood by the boxholder who every day goes to the post office to find his mail neatly sorted and waiting to be taken to his home or his place of business.

Just to give the committee an idea of the amount of business done in that post office, during the Christmas period they sold 120,000 two-cent stamps. Therefore it is really high time we had a new post office. I am going to send this paper over to the Postmaster General. Under one of the pictures he will see the following:

General delivery accommodation, now much too small for Selkirk's bustling post office, was bottleneck often during the holiday season rush.

Under another picture there is the following:

Mountain of mail at local post office.

And there is nowhere to put it.

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LIB

Alcide Côté (Postmaster General)

Liberal

Mr. Cote (St. Jean-Iberville-Napierville):

I can assure my hon. friend that we agree with him. We feel that we need a new post office, and I can tell him that the detailed requirements have already been submitted to public works.

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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Bryce:

Thanks very much; that is really good news. I have another item that I can deal with very quickly. The last time the minister's estimates were up I talked about the service at Dugald, the place in which I have lived for over thirty years. We get poorer service there now than we had thirty years ago. Then we had mail every day. Now, as the minister explained to me in his

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letter, the mail goes east three times a week and it comes west three times a week, which is still service every second day.

The people of Dugald deserve better treatment than that. Dugald is about twelve miles from Winnipeg and in another fifteen years will probably be a suburb of that city. For them to get their mail only three times a week is not good enough. Dugald is a centre of a prosperous farming community, and if the farmers want to get their mail to Winnipeg they have to send it by the milk truck driver when he goes in in the morning. The post office loses revenue, because if a letter is mailed in Dugald it takes a four-cent stamp, whereas when the milk truck driver posts it in Winnipeg it requires only a three-cent stamp. The postal authorities in Winnipeg frown on this practice and say we should not do it. These are important farming people, and they require a daily service. With the loss of revenue brought about by this practice the department would do better to put in a daily service.

There is only one rural mail route out of Dugald, I believe for a distance of about 80 miles. I should like to read a letter I received from the women's institute of Dugald:

The Dugald women's institute have sponsored a petition to improve the mail service in our district. The present service is not as good as it was 30 years ago when the mail came directly from Winnipeg by mail carrier 3 times a week. It now comes to Dugald on the train and goes out on the route 3 times a week.

The petition having about 370 names, asked for a daily mail service from Winnipeg coming out on the Dugald road, then following the present mail route and going in on the centre line (or vice versa).

There are other districts close to us, where the roads are not as good as ours, which enjoy a daily mail service.

This is a district which has been settled for many years (our agricultural society is 71 years old). The land is high in price, we are served by hydro, there are many new schools, yet we have an obsolete mail service.

The Dugald women's institute earnestly ask that everything possible be done to grant this request.

Yours respectfully,

Mrs. S. Hanson, Sec.

Dugald W.I.

I have to go back there, and if the minister is not able to do anything for me I know the welcome mat will not be out for me.

The last matter I want to bring up is something I tried to bring up in the committee when we were considering rural routes, but it was suggested that I leave it until these estimates were before us. I think the best

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thing to do would be to read this letter which I received:

Dear Sir:

You will be surprised to get this letter but I was a mail carrier for five years and I am interested in the debates volume 95, number 34 official report the different thing that you and your members bring up they are all about right and I hope this committee that has been appointed will have some power. It won't do me any good, don't think but I am thinking about others across Canada that could get the same trick played on them as I did. My term ran out December 31, 1952 but never got any word. On December 18 and they wrote me, will you carry on at same rate of pay pending contract arrangement? I said I would.

Well I thought this would be a renewal the same as they gave me in 1948, but on Jan. 5, 1953 they put it up for tender to close Jan. 23. So I put in my bid for $1,393.55, the same as it has always been. So another man seen in the newspaper where rural mail carriers was going to get a raise in wages so he found out some way what I got, then he put in for less, to get it-I hear about

cents a trip less or 8-9 dollars a year. So he was the lowest tender and they gave it to him. So I got word I was done on Feb. 28, so I lost all I had and the one that got it is painting by day, runs a barber shop at night.

Now I hope you and your committee will give careful consideration to other contracts that might be due, if he has been a good carrier, I would like to see him have a chance and not lose out the way I did.

I do not think this man got a fair deal, and I would like to have the minister's comments. If he wants to look into the case he can write me later.

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Mr. Coie@SI Jean-Iberville-Napierville

I recall having had correspondence with my hon. friend about the Dugald matter, but I do not recall the details and I shall look into them. With regard to the last matter he raised, I think it would be unfair for the department to award a contract to anyone but the lowest tenderer. We cannot prevent a man acting as barber during his off hours, as that is not within our jurisdiction. It is unfortunate when a man bids too low, but either we have to retain the tender system or give it up. We have decided that we should retain that system and at the same time find a way to readjust those cases where the men are underpaid. We cannot control every case, and at times the contractors themselves are to blame when they do not succeed in obtaining a contract.

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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Bryce:

I would like to have brought up this matter in committee, but it was suggested that I leave it. I would like to know whether this man got an increase later on.

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PC

Charles Delmar Coyle

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Cole (SI. Jean-Iberville-Napierville):

I shall look into the case.

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CCF

William Scottie Bryce

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (C.C.F.)

Mr. Bryce:

If he did, it would be unfair; if he did not get an increase in wages and is still doing the job for 2| cents less per trip, then I know you are trying to save money.

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PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLure:

Mr. Chairman, I regret that I was not in the committee when the post office estimates were first called, to have the opportunity of hearing the opening remarks of the Postmaster General. However, I shall read them in Hansard, as I know they will indicate an enthusiasm for his new position.

I always have taken a great interest in post office affairs. I can remember looking over the estimates and noting where this department showed a surplus of $6 million, $8 million some years, $9 million and as high as $13 million. I used to think that this was a wonderful department of the government when it could pay all its expenses and still show these enormous surpluses. All of a sudden, without any warning, they faded away; not only that, there is a deficit. I am not condemning the Postmaster General, but it would be most interesting to have a committee of this House of Commons find out how that money disappeared so quickly. Surely there must have been some easy sliding in connection with it. Otherwise how could a surplus of $11 million disappear and the following year have a deficit of many millions of dollars?

As I say, I am not placing any blame on the Postmaster General, but it would be most interesting to find out those facts. Were there fewer postage stamps sold? We know it is pretty hard to tell the cost of a four cent postage stamp. I suppose it would be a very small fraction of a cent. Anyway, I would like to see this brought before the house so we might learn how it is that the Post Office Department does not show a revenue. It is said, of course, that there is a revenue; but at the same time we are asked to vote $110,881,988. If the old method of accounting had been followed in this department we would have some idea of the revenue it produced. Instead of that, however, we are confronted with this vote of more than $110 million, and I am sure hon. members would be interested to learn what the earning capacity of the Post Office Department actually is.

I was surprised to hear the hon. member for Wellington South suggest a few moments ago that there should be a five-day week for mail carriers, or couriers; I am not sure which term he used. He had better not suggest that to the people in the community in which I live. They would not want to go back to a five-day week service. In fact, they are asking for something more than a six-day week. Some communities are asking for double delivery, if the mail routes are not too long

Then there is another matter I would bring to the attention of the minister, one which I

have discussed on several other occasions. We hear a good deal of talk about urban mail carriers. These men are on contract and are civil servants. They know what their salary is to be from year to year, as their increases are granted under the act. I suggest, however, that we cannot begin to compare the urban mail carriers with the rural mail couriers, because two different types of employment are involved, and there are twc kinds of work to be done.

The city mail carriers know what their work is each day. They know the ground they will have to cover. They are by no means overpaid, because their work is strenuous, day in and day out. In my city we have an excellent staff of mail carriers. But when we consider the rural mail couriers we find that they work on contract. The courier has to fulfil his contract, and must deliver the mail six days a week. At the end of four years, when his contract is up for renewal, he is no longer anything more than a private individual, because he must go to work again to find out whether he can continue in his job. Someone comes along and underbids him to the tune of $5 a month, or $5 a year, or even less than that; $2.50 a year. He loses his job.

I was greatly disappointed in what was done recently by a committee set up to investigate the problems of the rural mail couriers. If one reads the report of the committee he finds that it does not give the Postmaster General anything to work on by way of suggestions as to what should be done for these men. However, when Bill 197 was passed there was one thing it did do; it gave him almost absolute power, and put a great deal of patronage into his hands, something no one in the public service should have.

Be that as it may, we must take things as they come. I have considered carefully the salaries of rural mail couriers in my constituency. While I have not complete information from all of them so far as expenses incurred are concerned, I And that on the average they make as wages for themselves from $1.25 to $3.69 a day. Very few of them can say they get a wage amounting to this latter sum. There is no difficulty in figuring out these amounts. For instance, I have before me the information concerning one man who is on a contract at $2,000. His expenses for the year amounted to $933. One needs only to divide the balance by 310 days of labour to find out at once that this mail courier does not have a very large daily

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wage. The same man could work an eight-hour day on the highway and get three times as much pay.

I shall not say much more about the mail couriers, because it is now up to the Postmaster General to take action. He has authority to deal with the contracts that come before him. I know that two or three couriers from my constituency have written to him, and I am waiting to see how he will deal with them. I have in mind particularly one man who has been in the service for seven or eight years, and for five years before that had given war service. I find now, however, that there are four or five tenders in competition with this man. Some of the tenderers are no good at all, but that will have to be investigated by the Postmaster General. But because the other tenders are just a little lower than the amount this man is asking, his contract is held up. As I say, I am not going to interfere at all, but I am going to watch carefully how cases like that are handled. And if I do not like it, the department will hear about it later on.

I should like to say a word about our post office at Charlottetown, and I am not referring particularly to the post office building. We have there an excellent staff. I have said before that we are not recognized as a postal zone, notwithstanding the fact that we are a province of Canada. According to the agreement on which we went into union we should be recognized as such, and our post office should be a separate unit by itself. As I said here a year ago, we have no right to be tacked on to the province of New Brunswick, and I am going to repeat what I said before.

Suppose some country post office in my constituency wants some little matter adjusted. They come into the city post office at Charlottetown, where the men are quite able to adjust the matter. It may be only the moving of a box out in one of the communities, but they have no authority to move it and what do they do? They have to get in touch with New Brunswick and after that with the superior officer in Moncton, and about a week after that again they get in touch with Ottawa. What confusion. Why in the Sam Hill don't they make this a postal zone of their own? We are a province, and I am going to demand that again.

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PC
PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLure:

As I said, our contract of 1873 reads that we should have these and other things in comparison with other provinces in Canada. You cannot deny us that right according to our agreement and until we do

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get it you will hear from me as long as I am here.

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PC
PC

Winfield Chester Scott McLure

Progressive Conservative

Mr. McLure:

I am not going to say anything more about the staff there, although we have an excellent staff and they are giving excellent service. There is one man on the staff, however, that I wish to speak about again. He is a man who has put in 53 years of service in the postal department in Charlottetown. He has never had a day's holidays, and has always worked a 12-hour day. He is still going strong; and when you figure it up according to the laws of the land and the laws of the 8-hour day he has given 79 years of service. Now, that is a record for any man. What does the department in Ottawa want to do, Mr. Chairman? They want to get rid of this man.

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PC

May 13, 1953