March 14, 1957

LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Mr. Chairman, I have

already explained what is provided by regulations in this regard, and I can assure the house that no postal employee will be prevented by his work from attending religious services. Again I say that never has the Civil Service Commission authorized, as the hon. member contends, that a period of 45 minutes be taken off the eight working hours of an employee to enable him to attend religious services.

There has always been a rule, at least so I am told, whereby the employees could take that time off, but it was not to be taken off their eight hour day, and that is the rule applying to all postal employees, as well as to those of every other federal department from coast to coast.

I have insisted that this regulation be observed in Montreal and that each employee should have the opportunity of attending religious services if he so wishes, under the circumstances I have mentioned. Since such regulation is established by the civil service commission, I do not have the authority to establish the so-called tradition, to which the hon. member referred a moment ago, but I certainly have the authority to see that the regulation as established is observed. That, I have done.

Topic:   POST OFFICE DEPARTMENT
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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

Then, judging from the statement the hon. minister made in answer to my own, from now on the postal employees of Montreal, on Sundays and days of obligation, will be permitted to disregard the orders of the postmaster, Mr. Rene Boileau, and take, from their eight working hours, the said three quarters of an hour to attend religious services. Is it what the hon. minister has just said?

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Listen, I cannot state it more clearly, and I suggest that the hon. member read my remarks. I have nothing further to add. It is quite clear. I have explained What the civil service commission regulation provided in this regard.

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

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I must inform you that if you again fail in your next examination or do not show up, steps will be taken to reduce your salary further at your next increase date or, if you have reached your maximum salary, at the date where you would have received such an increase.

Signed V. M. Chalin for Rene Boileau, Postmaster.

That is how the department deals with an employee of 35 years standing. He is required, after 35 years of loyal service, to pass, under the threat of a reduction in the salary he has earned for 35 years, an examination which he was able to write successfully 35 years before but which he is no longer in a position to pass with the same facility. He has to take other examinations; I have said and I repeat, Mr. Chairman, that this is foolish, ridiculous and simply leads to hardship toward devoted servants of the people. I suppose that steps should be taken, and will be taken I hope, to decide about the qualifications of employees when they pass their examinations but, for goodness sake, I wish the department would leave them alone for the rest of the time when they serve the state faithfully.

As proof of what I have said, Mr. Chairman, I have here some instructions cpming from Ottawa and dated July 1, 1956. They are called Operation Directives, No. 16 amended. They are sent to all Headquarters Directors, Regional Directors-

(Text):

For Insertion in all order books Operations Directive No. 16 (Amended) Headquarters Directors,

Regional Directors,

District Directors,

District Postmasters,

Postmasters, Staff Offices Departmental Examination Failures

(1) Employees are given two opportunities within their increase year to pass either one or two examinations as applicable.

(ii) Employees who do not present themselves when listed or who have failed after two listings will not have a further opportunity until their regular annual examination date.

Salary Reductions

(c) who fail at an examination on two occasions for two consecutive years, regardless of the failure percentage obtained, will be considered for release from the service. If the employee is not released, the salary will be reduced one step in the salary range on his annual increase date. Each successive year from that point on, following two failures at an examination, a reduction in salary will be effected if the employee is not released from the service.

(iii) Employees at the maximum salary who fail on two occasions during an increase year at an examination will be reduced one step in the salary range on their regular increase date.

(iv) Repeated failures at required examinations even though not consecutive may result in release from the service.

I have known many people who have attended universities. When they got out of university, after passing their examinations, they were considered to be qualified lawyers, doctors or qualified in any other profession, and they did not have to pass examinations every year to find out whether they were still competent. We do not see any of these things in any other department of government. Right now we have to consider the fact that in one department, the Post Office Department, this is going on. I say that this should be stopped because a man with 30 years' or 35 years' service cannot be as good as he was 35 years previously when he passed his examination.

(Translation):

I repeat, Mr. Chairman, that, in my opinion, it is sheer cruelty towards postal employees to force them, under threat of a reduction in their salary or of dismissal, to take yearly examinations.

Those are the few comments I had to make, Mr. Chairman, I thank the hon. minister for the assurance he has given us a few moments ago to the effect that the situation which has existed in Montreal for a very long time will continue; I hope that he will take in very serious consideration, in the best interests of his department and of those who for many years have served it faithfully, the few observations which I have just submitted to the house.

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Mr. Chairman, I would like to underline only one of my hon. friend's statements. He referred again to the situation in the Montreal central post office as regards attendance at religious services. He should read again the remarks I made when I explained exactly what the regulation was and gave him the assurance that this regulation would be observed.

According to the hon. member, I said that we would come back to the situation prevailing previously. I stated that every post office employee would have a certain time allowed to attend religious services in accordance with the civil service regulation.

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PC
LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

Mr. Chairman, I do not propose to pursue that discussion any further. I have stated the situation quite clearly and I have nothing to add.

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

In order to make all that definitely clear once again, I should like the minister to tell us whether the forty-five minutes to which we both referred would be taken on the eight hours to be worked by the post office employee on Sunday or feast days of obligation.

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

No. Here is what I said exactly. The employee has been allowed 45 minutes to attend mass or any other religious service. However, I did say that he had to fill in his eight hours work just the same.

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

That is quite ridiculous. The minister's statement does not stand up. It is impossible to give an employee permission to do what he wants outside his working hours. That is his exclusive privilege, whether it be before or after his working hours. I said "during his working hours." If such is the minister's statement, it means that there is nothing changed in the instructions given by the Post Office Department in Montreal and which the minister himself seems to confirm here this afternoon. It means that, from now on post office employees in Montreal, who were entitled to and granted three quarters of an hour of their working time to attend religious services on Sundays and feast days of obligation will no longer have that privilege following the minister's statement.

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LIB

Hugues Lapointe (Postmaster General; Minister of Veterans Affairs)

Liberal

Mr. Lapointe:

I wonder if it happens sometimes that the hon. member can interpret anyone's words properly. What I said was, and I repeat it, that post office employees in Montreal, like those of all other post offices, are allowed to interrupt their work in order to attend religious services, on the condition that they come back and fill in the time they were allowed. That has always been the rule and that will continue to be the rule of the Post Office Department as long as I am in charge of it. That is a regulation which will be applied to all employees of the department whatever their religious denomination.

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

Mr. Chairman, I thank the minister for being a little more precise than he had been and I conclude that from now on post office employees in Montreal will be permitted to take the time necessary to attend religious services provided at the end of their day's work they put in the time taken for religious services.

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LIB

Joseph-Arsène Bonnier

Liberal

Mr. Bonnier:

Mr. Chairman, I do not know whether the members from Quebec city have the advantage of the same regulations as we

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have in Montreal concerning religious service hours, but I should like to point out to the hon. member that in Montreal we have masses at five o'clock and six o'clock in the morning. Moreover, we also have masses at seven o'clock and eight o'clock at night. Therefore, employees of the Post Office Department do not have to ask permission; they can attend mass at a time convenient to them. The hon. member should let us worry about what concerns Montreal and should concern himself with his own city of Quebec.

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

Mr. Chairman, the hon. member for St. Henry (Mr. Bonnier), whom I have seen rise for the first time since I have sat in this house, just made a discovery. He imformed us that masses were being said in Montreal beginning at five o'clock in the morning and also in the evening. It is the same in other cities of the province of Quebec and there is nothing new in that.

Just now, we are considering the position of post office employees in Montreal. We are here to represent those who work in the various departments of the federal government and what I said about the post office employees of Montreal applies also to the electors I have the honour to represent and all those who work for the federal government.

I am quite willing to concern myself with the business of my electors. I have been doing that for the past four years. The hon. member for St. Henry could have risen more often. It might have been his best opportunity to prove that he was looking after the interests of the electors of Montreal.

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LIB

Joseph-Alphonse-Anaclet Habel

Liberal

Mr. Habel:

Mr. Chairman, I should like to ask a question of the hon. member for Quebec West.

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PC
LIB

Joseph-Alphonse-Anaclet Habel

Liberal

Mr. Habel:

It may be that the hon. member is more concerned with politics than with his religious duties. He may have forgotten that a church decree concerning observance of feast days of obligation allows people to work on such days without violating church commandments so long as they attend mass in the morning or in the evening. It may be that the hon. member had forgotten it.

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PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

Mr. Chairman, I prefer my parish priest's interpretation and that of the archibishop's to that of the hon. member for

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Cochrane, and I think he is wrong when he says-

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LIB
PC

J.-Wilfrid Dufresne

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Dufresne:

-that the fact of working on a feast day of obligation relieves us of the duty of attending religious services.

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March 14, 1957