It was made last fall. The survey was started in December and the postmaster in Montreal did make one report which we discussed. Then on January 24 we asked for a final decision, which is what I have just told the hon. member.
These being the senior officials of the department now in front of the minister, I feel a little guilty because when we discussed the matter last Friday I suggested I had written to a senior official of the department and had waited four months for a reply, from the middle of November up to the present time. At that moment I was relying on my memory, but I went back to my office and looked at the original letter and I find that it was directed to the Postmaster General and that an acknowledgment came from one of the senior officials. Therefore it really is four months since the date of the original letter to the Postmaster General.
But I should like to point out to him that here is apparently a clear-cut case in which an inquiry was made in November, the information was available in January, as he has just told us, and it was necessary to wait until the Postmaster General came before the house with his estimates in order to pry it out. It has taken two sessions of the house to do that. I think that is a regrettable situation. Is there some explanation?
I do not think the situation is quite as the hon. member described it. He did write on November 12, and his letter was acknowledged. At that time I instructed the officials of the department to ask the officials in Montreal for a report on the matter. A preliminary report was made and was discussed among the officials of the department. I suppose they were not in full agreement on some of the points in the report and wanted further details from the Montreal officials so they communicated with them again. On the 24th of January we asked for a final decision on the matter, which is the one I have just reported and which we received after the 24th of January.
Mr. Chairman, first of all I should like to say to the Postmaster General that when I was home for a day or two I was very pleased to find that mail delivery in Sutherland on the outskirts of Saskatoon, or perhaps I should say now within the boundaries, is in operation and the people are very happy indeed. I should like to convey that message to the minister. They have some doubt as to the plans for the city of Saskatoon itself.
About a month ago I wrote to the minister and I sent a copy of my letter to the Minister of Public Works. At that time I asked the Postmaster General what the plans were for the city of Saskatoon. I understood that certain plans with regard to extension had been decided upon. The reply I received from the Postmaster General was that these plans-I am simply relying on my memory now-had been approved and that the matter was now within the jurisdiction of the Minister of Public Works.
Since the Minister of Public Works only received a copy of the letter perhaps I could not have expected a reply from him. I do not know what the convention is in that regard, but at any rate he did not reply. A week or two ago I wrote to him again and as yet I have had no reply. My first question is, what are the plans for the extension of the post office facilities in Saskatoon? Second, are there certain offices in the federal building in Saskatoon which are going to be used by the Post Office Department in the near future or is it the intention of the department to construct a new building in the near future? I think that covers it.
May I also draw the minister's attention to a public statement made by the postmaster of that city in which he stated that the post office officials would not be able to face another Christmas rush such as they had this year without further accommodation. I should like to get a preview of what is going to happen there and when.
I can add very little more to the information I have already given the hon. member. A new building is planned. We have approved the plans of the building which, following the usual procedure, were submitted to us by the Department of Public Works. The plans have been returned to the Department of Public Works with our approval and from then on we have to wait until the Department of Public Works goes ahead with the building. However, I understand it is in the course of planning at the present time in the Department of Public Works. We have recognized the need for new accommodation, we have asked for it and it has been approved by the Department of Public Works.
In other words, as far as the Post Office Department is concerned, a new building is necessary, the plans have been approved and it is a matter for the Department of Public Works to say how and when it should be built. That covers the situation.
Mr. Chairman, I should like to urge upon the Postmaster General that as the minister responsible for a very large group of the civil servants who work for the federal government he might have his department make its own study of the practice of collective bargaining, particularly in the United Kingdom. I raise this question because, as the Postmaster General is aware, the matter was discussed when the Canadian Labour Congress presented its annual brief to the government of Canada on January 23, 1057. At that time the Canadian Labour Congress had in its brief an important section dealing with government employees and it made a number of requests. I shall quote one sentence from page 30:
We ask you-
This was addressed to the government, of course.
-to establish a regulated bargaining procedure for these purposes-
For the purpose of setting wages and salaries and arranging for bargaining conditions. -and to provide for the settlement of differences between the government and representative organizations of your employees through conciliation and voluntary resort to arbitration when necessary.
What was interesting about the request of the trade union movement this year for collective bargaining for the civil service was the reply of the Prime Minister. That reply was reported in the daily press at the time but I should like to read a paragraph from Canadian Labour, the official magazine of the Canadian Labour Congress, as published in February of this year. The paragraph to which I refer reads as follows:
One of the most important comments made by the Prime Minister referred to the request of the congress for recognition by the government of the right of civil servants to bargain collectively regarding wages and working conditions. Mr. St. Laurent said, "As you know, we have been of the opinion that collective bargaining could not operate within the Canadian civil service, as public servants are not employees of the government as such, but of the people of Canada." However, he was surprised to learn that a system of collective bargaining exists for the civil service in Great Britain, and he had asked to have a full study made of the method by which it operates. The information obtained would be studied most carefully by the government, with a view to determining what could be done to maintain harmonious relationships within the civil service.
I recognize the fact that the Prime Minister made the promise that this information as to the practices in Great Britain would be studied with respect to the civil service as a whole. But I make the appeal to the Postmaster General that he have his department make its own study of this matter. I would suggest that he obtain such information as he can from his own opposite number in the government of the United Kingdom. I would also draw to his attention the fact that in the United Kingdom there are some rather large unions of postal employees that have collective bargaining arrangements with the post office department of that country. For example, I find that there are over 160,000 members of the Union of Post Office Workers. It is the largest group of postal employees. There are one or two other unions as well. In case I have persuaded the Postmaster General to take up my suggestion I would tell him that the secretary of the union is Mr. C. J. Geddes, C. B. E., U. P. W. House, Crescent Lane, Clapham Common, London, S. W. 4.
I should like to suggest that the Postmaster General communicate with the postmaster general in the government of the United Kingdom and also with the secretary of the Union of Post Office Workers in order to ascertain what their practices are, in the hope that the day may not be far distant when collective bargaining will be instituted in the postal service here.
It is well known to the Postmaster General that the post office employees themselves in this country have been seeking collective bargaining for some considerable time. In view of the promise made by the Prime Minister on January 23 I would hope that the government would study the whole question in relation to the civil service and that a particular study of this matter would be made by the Postmaster General.
Mr. Chairman, last week I had occasion to point out to the Postmaster General (Mr. Lapointe) what I termed an injustice being committed in Montreal and which was to come into effect last week, that is to say last Sunday, March 10. The day after my intervention, the Montreal newspaper La Presse gave a fairly substantial account of the orders issued by the Montreal postmaster.
Convinced as I then was, and still am, that the minister was quite unaware of the decision taken, I should like to ask him this afternoon if he has instructed the Montreal postmaster to keep granting postal employees the time previously allowed them for the purpose of attending mass on Sundays, and on feast days of obligation when they are required to work.
Mr. Chairman, first of all, I must point out that holidays and time off allowed on certain occasions are determined by the civil service commission. I must also inform the house that the regulation which governs the time allowed post office employees to attend religious services, of whatever denomination, is the same as in other federal departments. That regulation provides that sufficient time be allowed those who are normally called upon to work during hours when religious services are held, so that they may attend such services. However, time thus allowed is not taken off the eight hour tour of duty. In other words, if a man normally goes off duty at four o'clock in the afternoon, and took forty-five minutes' time off in the morning to attend mass during his working hours, his working time on that day will end at 4.45 p.m.
Time off allowed a civil servant to attend religious services is not taken off his day's work; such has always been the rule prescribed by the civil service commission.
I have ascertained that this practice would be followed in the Montreal post office as it is in any other post office in this country as well as other federal government departments.
This applies particularly in the case of attendance at mass on Sunday. As regards days of obligation, the department may, at its discretion, grant the necessary time to attend religious services, and this is standard practice.
Does not the hon. minister recognize that there previously was a well
established regulation or tradition in the Post Office Department, particularly in Montreal, tp the effect that, on the eight hour day's work of those employees, they were allowed three quarters of an hour to attend mass on Sunday?
I am referring to Sunday mass as it concerns Roman Catholic employees. However, I should not like to discriminate against anyone, and would be in favour of allowing other employees to attend religious services whatever their religious denomination.
Judging from the information published by La Presse on March 9, last I come to the conclusion that such time was taken from the eight hour day's work of postal employees.
I can assure the hon. member that at no time has the postmaster been authorized to grant such leave to postal employees, but he has always been free to allow them to attend religious services, provided such time be recovered in the course of the day's work. I do not know whether any tradition existed but there surely was no regulation to that effect. Consequently, if such had been the practice, it was being done without authorization. Whether it has been a tradition, I do not know, but I can assure the hon. member that this is the practice which has invariably been followed in the federal administration, in all departments, and that it is the practice followed in every other post office in this country.
Mr. Chairman, even if the hon. minister has read that article, I feel it is important that it be read to the house, as it contradicts the statements he has just made. The article is entitled:
Sunday work for postal workers.
The employees of the central post office will have to put in their eight-hour day.
From now on employees of the Montreal Central Post Office who work on Sundays, either regularly or irregularly, will have to attend mass on their own time. The formerly allowed forty-five minute period will be discontinued starting tomorrow, March 10.
Incidentally, Mir. Chairman, may I say that if time off previously allowed has been discontinued, this is clear inference that it existed. Therefore, if there was no definite regulation to that effect, as stated by the
hon. minister, there was at least a tradition which allowed time off to employees, or which perhaps gave the postmaster discretion to grant such time off.
I am not going to read the whole article, because it is not necessary, but I would merely point out that, at the close, it states:
It is felt, at the Post Office, that employees have ample opportunity to attend the early morning masses (i.e. at 6 a.m. in several churches) or even in the late afternoon (5.15 p.m.) at Notre-Dame.
I wonder, Mr. Chairman, why they specify Notre Dame church. To attend mass at 6 a.m., a postal employee who has to work right downtown, say at the corner of Craig and Windsor, and who lives in Ahuntsic, somewhere in northern Montreal, or again in Ville St. Laurent or Ville St. Michel, would then have to get up at five o'clock. If he has to report for work at 7.45 and doesn't want to be late-because everyone knows what happens to a postal employee in Montreal when he is late-he will have to wait till he is through, at 4.30 p.m., to attend mass at 5.15 at Notre Dame church. He will then have to travel from his place of work to Notre Dame church, spend there three-quarters of an hour or one hour at the religious service and take a further hour to get home.
I believe that the explanation given by the postmaster, and that given this afternoon by the hon. minister are anything but encouraging for the postal employees. In my opinion the statement by the minister to the effect that the regulations are the same in every department, is not quite accurate. It is well known that here in Ottawa, in the province of Ontario, on days of obligation, the various departments grant their employees one hour to attend religious services. If an employee starts working at nine, he is granted the privilege to report at ten, and I do not believe the hon. minister can deny that. If there has been a regulation established by the civil service commission, it certainly has not been followed in the past. May I say again that in Montreal, until March the 10th last, i.e. up until four days ago, on the eight hour period a postal employee was supposed to work, he was granted 45 minutes to attend religious services.
So I am now going to ask the minister whether he intends to take steps to grant Montreal postal employees the same privileges as are enjoyed by others, and to see that the postmaster of Montreal follows the same policy as is followed everywhere else.