Hon. Douglas Abbott (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker, I wish to announce that, following consultation with the civil service commission, the departments mainly concerned and the national joint council, the government has decided that the policy of readjusting the working week of operating staffs in the post office, customs and various other operating branches of the public service to the five-day forty-hour week where that is the prevailing practice in the locality, which had been approved and announced in September, will be put into effect April 1 next.
Working arrangements will have to be extensively revised and additional employees recruited and trained before the change can be put into effect, but it is believed that this can be accomplished by the end of March with the co-operation of all concerned in assisting to meet the objective.
The civil service commission has been asked to make recommendations to the government for the extension of this new work week to operating staffs in those localities and those classes of employment where the five-day forty-hour week is the established pattern in business and industry.
This change in working hours will make it necessary to add substantially to the staff of the post office. These additions, following the improvements authorized by parliament for rural mail carriers and the salary increases which went into effect on December 1, will materially increase the cost of operating the postal service.
Like all other public utilities with fixed rates, the post office has already been facing difficulty in the past year or two in meeting steadily rising costs, including increased railway and other transport rates and increased remuneration for its employees.
It is anticipated that there will be a deficit on operating account in the present fiscal year and it will certainly not be possible without some increase in revenue to keep the
operations of the post office on a self-sustaining basis in the new fiscal year when the five-day week adds further to operating costs.
It is the view of the government that the people of Canada expect the post office to pay for its operations out of postal revenues and not out of taxes.
The government has accordingly decided to recommend the following adjustments in first-class postage rates effective April 1, 1954:
1. A general increase of one cent per ounce over existing rates.
2. The application of the so-called drop letter rate to rural routes as is now done in city and town deliveries.
3. The reduction of the domestic air mail rate from 7 to 5 cents, with rates outside Canada unchanged.
While the government naturally regrets the necessity for any increase in postage rates, the proposed increase is much more modest than almost all other increases in prices, wage rates or service and transport charges which have been made in the past seven or eight years.
When the new rates come into effect all first-class mail will be carried by air if air carriage will speed up delivery. Canada already has the most advanced air mail service of any country in the world and this service will be further improved.
The government believes the Canadian people want good postal service and the Postmaster General is accordingly giving notice today of the proposed resolution to the effect that it is expedient to introduce a bill to make the necessary amendments to the Post Office Act.
Subtopic: ESTABLISHMENT OF FIVE-DAY 40-HOUR WEEK IN VARIOUS DEPARTMENTS INCREASE IN POSTAGE RATES