The character of the applicant is another. If he has been convicted of a crime. In certain instances, if he is not a British subject and British subjects are available for the service. Also of course, drunkenness on the route. I think these exhaust the list set out by the department as being within the exception mentioned' in section 67 of the act.
Did I understand the minister to say the other evening that he had had no complaints from postal or labour organizations about letter carriers having to work on statutory holidays and Saturday afternoons?
My statement was that the trades and labour council, which meets the government annually, interviewed the government some weeks after these changes were made, and there was not one mention, by way of protest, of the men working on statutory holidays.
Yes, some protests have been received. Perhaps I should say that some reference was made the other evening, I think by the hon. member for Winnipeg North (Mr. Heaps) as to who were the officials of the various services who waited on the government and discussed with them these changes before they were actually put into effect. I have the list of those officials. The organizations included the Amalgamated Civil Servants and the Union of Postal Employees. They came to see me a day or two after the announcement was made, which I think was about November 24. As I recollect, we had a meeting on November 27 andi discussed the matter most of the morning. The position taken was that if the service were deemed necessary, the employees should be paid1 for the overtime, and that the forty-four hour week should not be exceeded. There was a further request that the arrangement should not be put into effect for a week later. At that time, I believe, we intended to put it into effect on November 28. They requested that it be deferred one week. That request was granted. I think the object was to enable them to have some consultation with those whom they represented. A matter of a day or two days was spent in consultation with the officials as to how best the plan could be worked out. It was pointed out to them that the time which would1 be most useful by way of relieving the difficult unemployment situation in the winter time would be prior to March 1, and while some of them felt that they would prefer to be able to take their week off at some other time, it was generally agreed, I think, that that was the most reasonable proposition, for the half day off each Saturday meant, of course, practically twenty-six days in the year. They were given one week off for every eleven Saturday afternoons that they put in. While, probably, they still would have preferred to be paid for the extra time rather than receive time off, the arrangement was fairly well received by those officials. I can give the list of officials if my hon. friend wishes to hear it. I have it before me.
I am pleased, in a way, that this subject has been raised. I must also say that, in a way, I regret it, because I feel that it falls on me to state frankly my strong and emphatic dissent from the policy of administration in regard to this change in post office deliveries. To me the sudden taking
away-as I have thought, without any consultation at all-of holiday time and Saturday half holiday time from postal employees after they had enjoyed it for years, amounts really to a turning back of the hands of the clock. In industry the half holiday has become practically a world-wide institution; indeed, there is a considerable tendency toward what is called the five day week. Labour, both organized and unorganized, has had a long and hard struggle to get to the point of having a half holiday and statutory holidays recognized as an almost inalienable right. Indeed, I was confident that it had come to be recognized as inalienable. However, that turns out not to be the case.
I wonder what possible representations could have been made in favour of this change. I have placed a series of questions on the order paper asking for that information. I feel sure there must have been representations in favour of it; yet I wonder what survey was made first with reference to it. I say that because, after the institution of this change making for greater frequency, all manner of friends and acquaintances in business asked me what the dickens was the idea of delivering mail around to empty offices on Saturday afternoons and Christmas day as well as on New Year's day and other statutory holidays. On a Saturday afternoon and again on Christmas day-and this last Christmas period was a long week-end-people went to their offices and found their floors piled with a litter of mail of one kind and another. So far as people in the residences were concerned, the only kind of mail that was delivered to them consisted of belated Christmas cards, which surely, in all conscience they could have waited for until a day or two after Christmas. The good wishes of their friends would have been equally acceptable to them after Christmas as on Christmas day, morning and afternoon. I remember when the mail was formerly delivered on Christmas, and I can remember the change, and recall there was universal satisfaction over that change and the fact that the postie could stay at home with his wife and kiddies the same as other men.
I look at the position of the postman pretty much the same as I do with relation to myself. I was in Ottawa prior to Christmas and was afraid that I should have to stay over; I made every possible effort to catch a train, and if necessary I was thinking of taking an aeroplane to get home in time for Christmas. Why? Because, like every other man, I wanted to lie on the floor with the kiddies and play with them all day and do
nothing in the way of the ordinary duties of life. And I regard myself in that respect as no different from any postman. In my opinion, the proper place for him on Christmas day is at home with his family.
I understand it was suggested that it was desirable to -make certain the delivery of air mail. If that is the case, this could be effected without this very radical change which has been made. I also understand, though I speak subject to correction, that this scheme was not carried out in all cities of the dominion. I am not sure of that, but I have been so informed. I have put on the order paper a question in that regard. I want to say this as a Canadian of Anglo-Saxon lineage and not of French lineage. If the Canadians of French lineage were able by pressure or influence to obtain any special consideration for themselves and their postmen in this respect, more power to them. Any pressure or influence which was used in that regard was brought to bear, in my opinion, in the service, shall we say, of a humane institution in our life, and if they did succeed they certainly have my admiration.
I cannot believe that the action taken would make for any great improvement in the unemployment situation. A return was brought down in the house to some questions of mine a few days ago as to the number of persons it was estimated would be employed as a result of the change, and the information is, 478 throughout the dominion and 33 in the province from which I come. I doubt very much whether that will turn out to be the case because mail delivered Saturday afternoon will lie unopened until Monday and there will be a slackening at the beginning of the week and a slackening after the holidays, which there would not have been if it had not been for this unusual delivery.
Some reference has been made to organized labour and the representations it has made, and I wish to place on record the statement of the Amalgamated Civil Servants of Canada made to me with reference to this question of extra employment or assistance in solving the unemployment problem. The letter addressed to me is dated January 25, and is from the president of that organization. I quote:
Extra employment can well be given to government employees who do not now enjoy the forty-four hour week. Here are some examples: Firemen in the Department of
Defence work a seven-day week, eight hours per day; hospital orderlies in some parts of Canada work a six-day week, twelve hours per day; inspectors in the Department of Agriculture work a six-day week, nine hours per day;
canal employees work seven days per week, eight hours per day and yet some people on the outskirts of cities receive only one mail per day while formerly they had two deliveries a day.
The letter goes on to state that extra staffs have been requested in various departments, but without success. I am also impressed with what they told me about other grievances they have. I was surprised and pleased as well to learn from the Postmaster General that a conference had been held with the employees. In the same letter they say:
It is felt that the principle of collective bargaining has been set aside in this case and many others. The organization are of the opinion that the officials of the P.O. Department and the representatives of the organizations should have been consulted before the order was issued and it is reasonable to suppose that had this been done, in all probability the order would have been a great deal more acceptable to the staff.
In my opinion the only satisfactory way for an employer to deal with a large number of employees is to deal with them, in all important matters, in advance of decisions affecting them. That is to say, the principle of collective bargaining should be applied. I do not suggest that it should be carried to the nth degree, but it should be recognized in the normal acceptation of the term. We have on our statutes, affecting other industry, what is known as the Conciliation and Labour Act. I cannot quote the section, but it is one of the principles of that act that changes in hours of labour and working conditions shall not be made by an employer until he has given notice to his employees and given them an opportunity of protesting. That is the policy we ought to follow. The government of this country is one of the largest employers of labour in the country, if not the largest. Canada should follow that principle in dealing with its employees. We ought to be the model employer of this country and not lag behind the principles in our own statutes. We ought to be at all times on the qui vive to discover abuses in respect to employment in the various departments of the civil service and to rectify them without waiting until there is widespread complaint. Just this word further with reference to these complaints. Since this new plan went into force, I have not met one citizen in my city who is particularly in favour of it, and every person to whom I have spoken has expressed his disapproval, particularly in regard to the removal of statutory holidays. In addition, a large number, of their own volition, have come to me protesting about it. It is my hope that the
government will reconsider this edict with reference to frequency of delivery, which affects these men in the way I have suggested, and make some change in it.
Supplementing what the hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Maybank) has just said, I may say, in reference to the business men of Hamilton, Ontario, that I have myself circularized a good many of them and I have not found one who is in favour of this holiday and Saturday afternoon deliver)-. Furthermore, not one of the letter carriers or the staff of the Hamilton post office is in favour of this change. I therefore urge that this regulation be rescinded.
The hon. member for Winnipeg South Centre (Mr. Maybank), if I heard him aright, said that there was no mail delivery in certain cities on Christmas *day. Would the Postmaster General tell the committee whether that is the case, and if so, what were the cities in which there were no deliveries on that day?
There were protests from some cities, one in particular. In the city of Quebec objections were made on religious grounds, and the matter was left in the hands of the postmaster with authority to exercise his discretion. That, in fact, is nothing new in postal administration. In the offices where there is fairly large business the postmaster is now the district superintendent as well, and he is authorized to exercise a certain amount of discretion with regard to delivery on religious holidays, so long as the mail is cleared. I am told that the mail was cleared on Christmas eve; everything was out, so that there was no danger of a glut the following day.
I think it was the only city. In Montreal and Sherbrooke, for instance, the population is more mixed; the volume of mail did not permit of closing on the holidays, and the employees worked on 'the holidays where it was necessary to get the mail out.