Wednesday, 25 March 1936
Dáil Éireann Debate
Go ndeontar suim ná raghaidh thar £1,281,928 chun slánuithe na suime is gá chun íoctha an Mhuirir a thiocfaidh chun bheith iníoctha i rith na bliana dar críoch an 31adh lá de Mhárta, 1937, chun Tuarastail agus Costaisí Oifig an Aire Puist agus Telegráfa (45 agus 46 Vict., c. 74; 8 Edw. VII., c. 48; 1 agus 2 Geo. V., c. 26; na hAchtanna Telegráfa, 1863 go 1928, etc.); agus Seirbhisi áirithe eile atá fé riaradh na hOifige sin.
That a sum not exceeding £1,281,928 be granted to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1937, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs (45 and 46 Vict., c. 74; 8 Edw. VII., c. 48; 1 and 2 Geo. V., c. 26; the Telegraph Acts, 1863 to 1928, etc.); and of certain other Services administered by that Office.
The total Post Office expenditure estimated for the year 1936-37 is £2,031,928, being a net increase, including bonus of £31,414, on the Estimate for last year. The higher figure is due mainly to increased allowances by way of cost-of-living bonus and to expenditure consequent upon a revision of Post Office wages which took effect in Mí na Nodlag last. The increases are, however, offset to some extent by certain items accounted for under the heading of Appropriations-in-Aid. The true financial position of the Department can be ascertained only from the Commercial Accounts which are prepared annually, and the latest such accounts available (which are subject  to audit) are those for 1934-35. They show as follows:—
Postal Services—Income, £1,593,387; expenditure, £1,360,317; surplus, £233,070. Telegraph Services—Income, £172,748; expenditure, £277,025; deficit, £104,277. Telephone Services— Income, £467,952; expenditure, £389,885; surplus, £78,067.
It will, therefore, be seen that on the Postal and Telephone Services there was a surplus of £311,137, against a deficit of £104,277, leaving a profit of £206,860 on the combined services as compared with £35,707 in the previous year.
Many improvements in postal deliveries, etc., were effected in 1935. In addition four new sub-offices were established, 32 letter-boxes were erected, and ten new stamp slot machines were fitted. The gradual introduction of motors instead of horses for mail services by road continued during the year, and about 80 per cent. of such services are now performed by motor transport. Approximately one-fourth of the latter are worked by Departmental staff. Cóbh and Galway are utilised to the utmost extent possible for the exchange of mails between this country and America. About 19,200 sacks of mails were despatched and 30,000 were received through these ports last year. The frequency of utilisation and the volume of mails transmitted depend naturally on the incidence of sailings.
Correspondence for conveyance by international air services (82,000 items) during 1935 showed a large increase over that posted in the preceding year (68,900 items). About 30 per cent. of the traffic was sent by the London-India service and 20 per cent. by the London-Capetown route. The Saorstát Post Office does not benefit financially, as all the additional postage required for transmission of packets by air is credited to the other Administrations concerned. In regard to cross-Channel air transport, it may be found convenient to use the new air services between Dublin and Liverpool and Dublin and Bristol, and when the necessary time-tables are published the matter will be further considered.
 Inland sample post within the Saorstát which was introduced on 12th November, 1934 is being availed of to a considerable extent by Dublin manufacturers, etc. Based on a recent return the number of sample packets posted in Dublin is estimated at 2,500 a week. It is believed that most of these packets would not pass through the Post Office but for the facility of the sample post. The posting of sample packets in the provinces is however very light. The inland cash-on-delivery service increased slightly in volume during 1935. The number of parcels posted was 16,883 on which trade charges amounting to £17,635 were collected. For the previous year the corresponding figures were 16,660 parcels and trade charges amounting to £16,748 9s. Express delivery services are being well patronised particularly the telephonic express service. A late fee of ½d on letters posted in letter boxes on omnibuses was payable up to July of last year, when it was decided to abolish it. The result was that the postings increased appreciably, and returns are being taken periodically to see whether the altered arrangements should be placed on a permanent basis.
Telegraphs here as elsewhere are still losing to the telephone, which is increasing in public favour. The development of our telephone service in Dublin and vicinity has been considerable, but the growth in other parts was normal only. The total number of subscribers' telephones and extensions is now 35,962, an increase of 1,443 over the previous year. The number of call offices and kiosks is 1,422 and 81, an increase of 42 and 11 respectively. Several additional “Trunk” circuits have been provided with the object of improving service, and others are in hands. The “Personal” trunk call facility appears to be much appreciated by telephone users. The number of such calls during the last financial year (49,000) showed an increase of 11,000 over the previous year. The Rathmines and Terenure areas were converted to automatic working in January, 1936, and resulted in the transfer of about  1,800 lines to the Dublin automafic network. The number of automatic exchange lines in Dublin at the end of February last was 9,276, an increase of 2,075 (which includes the Rathmines and Terenure lines) as compared with last year. Plans for further development of the automatic system in the city area are in contemplation, and it is hoped to have automatic equipment installed in the Central Exchange, Crown Alley, early in 1937.
The Engineering Branch, which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of the telephone and telegraph plant, was subjected to special strain during the past year on account of the extensive damage done to the lines by successive storms. The total expenditure on storm repairs was about £15,400. The staff, I am glad to say, worked with commendable enterprise, and succeeded in restoring communication within the shortest possible time.
The Post Office factory is mainly engaged in repair work, and it is not the policy of the management to undertake the manufacture of articles that can be produced by the home manufacturer at a reasonable cost. This necessarily confines the manufacturing operations of the factory mainly to the production of special articles for the Post Office service, and to a less extent for other Government Departments. The factory is also responsible for the maintenance and repair of Post Office mechanical transport, which comprises 91 vans and trucks and 75 motor cycles and combinations. The van and cycle combination bodies built by Saorstát manufacturers are proving satisfactory in service and reasonable in price.
Mr. Boland: Yes. It includes also the transfer of the College Green Branch Office to a new building in St. Andrew Street; structural alterations at Crown Alley Telephone Exchange in connection with the installation of  automatic telephone equipment; the completion of a new post office building at Athlone; the completion of structural works for the adaptation of the premises of St. Patrick's Quay, Cork, for letter and parcel sorting offices, postmen's office and Customs office; and the improvement and extension of the Thurles Post Office. In addition improvements of a minor nature, including electric lighting, will be undertaken at several other provincial offices, apart from the usual renovation and maintenance requirements.
The increase in cost-of-living bonus for the year 1936-37 is estimated at £32,000, and the recent special revision of Post Office wages, which affects many classes of permanently and temporarily employed Post Office servants will cost about £14,000. In addition, the hours of work of all Departmental grades will be fixed at 44 a week net, a concession involving an extra cost of about £12,000 per annum. In this case, relative authority was not received in time to allow of the additional expenditure involved being included in the current year's Estimates, but, if necessary, sanction for a Supplementary Estimate will be sought later on.
There has always been a public demand for reductions in telephone charges, and this demand has been particularly strong during recent years. Owing to the loss on the service which resulted from the concessions granted in 1925 it has not been practicable until now to contemplate further material reductions, but in view of the improving position for the past few years, and particularly of the profit for the year 1934-35, that is £78,067, I came to the conclusion that the time has come when the demand of the public for a cheaper telephone service should be met. The Government has accepted this view, and the result has been the extensive reductions in charges recently announced in the Press. The alterations are briefly as follows:—
4. Reduction of the fee for local calls from coin box call-offices on subscribers' lines from 3d. to 2d., and for calls from 5 to 7½ miles (second area calls) from 5d. to 4d. Also, reduction from 3d. to 2d. per 3 minutes of the supplementary fee on trunk calls from all call offices.
6. General reduction of charges for trunk calls, including the introduction of a maximum fee of 2/6 for day calls to all places within the Saorstát, and of a 4/- maximum to all places in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For night calls there will be a maximum fee of 1/- on all calls to the Saorstát, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The supplementary cable fee of 1/- on day calls and 6d. on night calls to Great Britain will still be charged in addition to the normal trunk fee. A cable fee applies also in the reverse direction on calls from Great Britain.
The reduction of the £7 10s. rental and the extension of the “free area” will mean that the rental of a private residence subscriber at a distance of three miles from an exchange will be reduced from £25 to £5 in the case of lines to which the present £5 minimum now applies, and from £27 10s. to £5 in the case of lines to which the £7 10s. minimum now applies. The reductions for business lines and for varying distances between one and three miles will, of course, be proportionate. The general effect of the rental and free radius changes will be that the rentals of about 2,550 existing subscribers including subscribers in suburban districts  such as Cabra and Mount Merrion in Dublin will be reduced by amounts varying from £1 to £22 10s. according to the circumstances in each case.
As regards the trunk fees the following examples indicate the benefit to the public of the changes:—Dublin to Cork, day charge reduced from 3/6 to 2/3; Cork to Letterkenny, 5/6 to 2/6; Tralee to London, 11/6 to 5/-; Dublin to London, 8/6 to 5/-; Cork to London,  10/6 to 5/-. A night call from Dublin to London which now costs 4/3 will be reduced to 1/6. That 6d. is a supplementary cable free, and applies also in the other direction.
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In view of the repeated representations which I have received both in this House and from the public in regard to the porterage charges on delivery of telegrams I have decided, notwithstanding the heavy loss on the telegraph service to which rural telegraph delivery in no small degree contributes, to reduce the present porterage charge of 6d. per mile or part of a mile beyond the limit (one mile) of free delivery to 3d. per mile or part of a mile.
The charges for the delivery of express letters, etc. are fixed on the same general basis as telegram porterage rates and having regard to the reduction in the latter it has been decided to reduce the express fee from 6d. per mile or part of a mile, beyond the first mile to 3d. per mile or part of a mile. In the Express Service the full distance from the delivery office is taken into consideration, no portion being free. The cost of the foregoing reductions of charges will amount to approximately £70,000 a year. The revised charges will come into operation on the 1st of July next. Leaflets giving full particulars of the new rates will shortly be available at all post offices.
I am, of course, very pleased to be in the position of informing the Dáil that the business of the Post Office is progressing so satisfactorily, and that its finances have so much improved in recent years as to permit me now to announce concessions both to the public and the staff. And, although the accounts for the year just ending will not be available for several months, I am confident from the returns to hand that the surplus will show a further and substantial advance on that secured in the preceding year.
Mr. Byrne: Might I ask the Minister a question? Can he hold out any hope that the Corporation Housing Department will be able to take over Aldborough House or the site at its rere, which we have been seeking from his Department for the last five years? Housing is urgently needed in that area and the space is only used as a store for scrapped cars. It would make a splendid clearance depot for the corporation. For five years we have been asking for the site and we have all the plans prepared. No district in the city wants housing so much as that area where Aldborough House is situated.
Mr. Boland: Perhaps I might answer Deputy Byrne now. The position  about Aldborough House is that about two years ago I met a deputation from the Corporation Housing Committee and promised them that my Department would put no obstacle in the way of their acquiring Aldborough House, although my Department wanted it badly for their own purposes. But, in view of the necessity for a housing clearance in that congested district and for a housing scheme there, the Department decided to make other arrangements and to give the site. Then the question of cost arose and, as Deputies know, that is not mainly a question for the Post Office. The Department of Finance is mainly concerned with that, and that is the question that is holding up the business now. I think that the Minister for Local Government, whose business it is to look after the housing situation, ought to deal with this matter, because I can assure Deputy Byrne that, as a Department, we have done all we can in the matter. The finance end of it is scarcely one for us. My Department were prepared to facilitate as much as they could, but the question of cost arises.
After all, whatever money is paid into the Post Office for the Aldborough House site will go to the general Exchequer to relieve taxation generally and, perhaps, to improve housing conditions in other parts of the country as well as Dublin. That aspect has to be considered. It looks as if something in the nature of a special grant may be necessary, and if pressure is put on the housing department of the Government they may consider it. As far as we are concerned, I do not think it is right to saddle us with the blame. As a Department, we are prepared to put ourselves out to facilitate the corporation in proceeding with the housing scheme and further than that I do not think it is fair to ask this Department to go. The matter is one for the Government as a whole, and I think Deputy Byrne ought to turn his guns in some other direction.
Mr. Byrne: I know the Minister is most sympathetic and that he is up against officialism of some kind, but,  in view of the fact that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is sitting behind him, I should like to say that they are asking for a sum of £7,000 per acre or from £20,000 to £30,000 for the Aldborough House site. That is relatively the highest sum ever asked by any landlord in the City of Dublin or by any authority for any site for the housing of the working classes. In view of the fact that we are prepared to do the work which the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Local Government have asked us to speed up, is it right that the Department of Finance should stand in our way by asking this exorbitant price for a piece of ground that everybody knows is in the heart of a tenement area? I put it to the Minister that he ought to consult with the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government, because we have had the plans ready for this site for four years and we want to build houses in that area and do what the Government are appealing to us to do every day in the week.
Mr. Boland: I can only say that as a member of the Government I am anxious to see housing gone on with in that district, but housing policy is a matter for the Minister for Local Government, who is also a representative for North Dublin and takes a very keen interest in the situation.
Mr. Byrne: If the Minister will give us the site at a reasonable price which can be fixed by arbitration we are prepared to put up flats there for 150 families within the next 12 months and give much-needed employment.
Mr. Norton: The Minister, in the course of his speech on this Estimate, has apparently been in a generous mood because he has announced substantial reductions in telephone charges, some reductions in proterage charges, and further reductions in parcel charges. He has been enabled to do that because of the fact that, according to his own admission, after having a deficit of £104,000 on the telegraph service, he has been able to produce a net surplus of £206,000, as the postal and telephone services have yielded a profit of £311,000. This year the Minister is in the position of being able to extract a surplus of £206,000 from the Post Office service, and a substantial portion of that surplus is going to find its way back to the public in the form of reduced telephone charges, reduced parcel charges, and reduced porterage charges. But there are other considerations which ought to operate with the Minister in connection with the distribution of any surplus.
I think the Minister will have to admit that the possession of a telephone by any citizen is prima facie evidence that he is in no need of bread, not troubled with the problem of raising his rent, and that many other necessaries of life have been already well satisfied. It is to that section of the community who are able to pay £7 10s. for telephone lines, and £5 and £6 10s. in other areas, as well as paying for individual calls, that the Minister proposes to part with a substantial portion of his surplus. Might I suggest to the Minister that there are other classes for his surplus, and that if he were disposed to deal with the matter on a purely moral and Christian basis instead of on the basis of what scheme will get the greatest measure of political enthusiasm, he would have found a much more useful outlet for his surplus than that which he has discovered in the course of the debate on this Estimate to-day.
One would imagine from the manner in which the Minister has distributed his surplus that everything so far as the wage level of the staff and the  conditions of employment were concerned was ideal. I would like to remind him, in case he has forgotten it, that he is still the worst employer in the State service and that there is no other single Department of State which employs people at such scandalously low rates of wages as does the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. He can search the Departments of the other Ministers who are his colleagues on the Executive Council, and I have no hesitation in challenging him to discover a single instance in any other Department where the staff is paid at such intolerable low levels as the Post Office.
I want to give the House an instance of the kind of employer the Minister is in his capacity as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs. The latest information as to the wage grouping of the staff in the post office shows that there are 2,158 part-time employees working for the Minister at less than 20/- a week; that there are 900 part-time employees working at wages between 20/1 and 25/- per week; the Minister is the employer of 3,700 part-time employees at an inclusive wage not exceeding 30/- a week. In all, 4,131 persons employed at a wage not exceeding 30/- a week. Another 550 are employed at a wage exceeding 30/- a week and not exceeding 40/-; another 2,200 are employed at a wage exceeding 40/- and not exceeding 60/ a week. Another 1,000 are employed at a wage exceeding 60/- and not exceeding 80/- a week. Out of a total personnel of well over 8,000 persons, approximately 350 have a wage exceeding £4 a week. Even in these instances that wage is only reached in many cases after a service running upwards of 17 years.
So that side by side with a surplus of £206,000 made on the Post Office, the Minister is employing well over 4,000 persons at a combined wage not exceeding 30/- a week. He has the unenviable reputation in his official capacity as Minister, that he employs persons in the State service at less rates than are paid in any other Department. I have no hesitation in challenging him to find any private industry employing over 8,000 persons  where only 350 of them have wages exceeding £4 a week. While that state of affairs continues, while these people are paid such wretchedly low rates of wages—wages incapable of sustaining them and enabling them to meet their responsibilities as citizens—incapable of providing a bare reward for the onerous, responsible and trustworthy services which they render to the community—I submit that the Minister should have apportioned his surplus towards relieving the plight of those poor people for whose wages he is morally and legally responsible. He should do that instead of—as he is doing—sharing so much of the surplus with those who are fairly well-to-do, and apparently holding the remainder so that it will be utilised by the Central Exchequer.
It is true that the Minister moved a little since last year. After having the wage scheme under consideration for 15 months he ultimately announced his decision on the scheme. That decision was a miserable and disappointing one. As the Minister has intimated a large portion of the surplus is going to go back to the telephone users, while the main problem in respect of the wage issue remains unsolved. If one looks at the position of the wage rates and of how this surplus is being disposed of, one must come to the conclusion that the only way in which the Post Office staff would get any benefit would be by becoming telephone subscribers and paying £27 per annum for their telegraph lines. In that way they would get much more benefit than could be gained by working for the Minister. By becoming telephone subscribers they get a benefit of £22 10s. a year, and by working for the Minister they get a miserable increase of a few shillings. Even that miserable increase is not paid to all the staff. It is not paid to the people between the minimum and maximum, but only to officers on the maximum of the scale. Even those who are on the maximum are in many cases excluded from any participation in the increase.
The overwhelming majority of the staff gain nothing whatever from the miserable rate of increase provided by  the Minister. The Minister's decision reveals that to get an increase persons would require to have a minimum service in the main classes of 15 years before they could get an increase of 1/- a week. Part-time postmen, struggling to exist on the miserably low rate which the Minister pays them, would require to have ten years' service before they get any increase. Then the increase is a miserable one of a halfpenny per hour. There you have the halfpenny per hour for the part-time employee and a reduction of £22 10s. to those who have telephone lines. The Minister's decision was probably the most wretched decision on wage conditions ever given in the history of the Post Office wages. That is something of which the Minister cannot boast.
A large number of grades were excluded from the increases granted, and they were excluded for no definable or logical reason. It was not on the basis that their wages were higher than those who secured an increase, because a number of grades with less wages than those who got an increase were definitely excluded. We have here a most illogical decision by the Minister who decided to grant increases in the case of the persons who had the most wage, namely those on the maximum scale, and give nothing to the men on the minimum or intermediate points of the scale. I do not know on what grounds he can defend a decision of that kind which excludes other classes from participating in it, particularly as amongst the classes excluded were people at less wages than those who actually received the small increase granted. If one wants to get a picture of an illogical increase, he can get it by reference to the scales now set up by the Minister's decision. By this decision the Minister admits that it is necessary for postmen at Bray and Cobh to have increases in their wages of 1/- a week.
In the same decision the Minister, who realised that there is a necessity for an increase in wages at Cobh and Bray, says that there is no necessity for an increase in wages at Waterford, Galway, Dundalk, Mullingar and many other areas. I should like if the Minister  would say on what logical ground these later places were excluded, when the increases were granted, in the case of Cobh and Bray. Is it cheaper to live in Mullingar, Waterford, Galway, or these other places that I have mentioned, than in Cobh or Bray? On what ground does the Minister seek to defend an illogical decision of that kind?
We had from the Minister, during the course of his speech to-night, a tribute to the engineering staff for the commendable way in which they repaired dislocated telegraph and telephone services during the recent storms. The Minister was loud in his praise of the manner in which they worked to repair these services, but when we come to ask the Minister for something tangible to indicate the esteem in which he holds his engineering staff, we find the Minister in his decision deciding that he would not give the engineering staff one halfpenny of an increase. All the talk about a tribute to the engineering staff for their work during the break-down has a very hollow ring about it, in view of the very definite decision of the Minister not to grant them one halfpenny per week increase. If that portion of his speech was not intended to be deliberately ironic, it might have been left out, as far as its application to the engineering staff was concerned. To talk about the conditions under which the engineering staff worked, to pay tribute to the manner in which they restored the services, to say: “I am prepared to pay an oral tribute to them, but I am not prepared to give them a halfpenny per week of an increase,” seems to me to be a demonstration of irony—probably a curious little foible or an idiosynerasy on the part of the Minister. His recognition of their services is limited to words and does not extend to cash benefits. Instead of giving some of the surplus to the engineering staff, the Minister proceeds to shovel out £70,000 to the telephone subscribers. There is not a word in the way of an increase for the people who make the telephone service possible, and to whose efforts the Minister has been compelled to pay tribute.
Last year the Minister, in discussing this Estimate, indicated that one of the  reasons why he could not meet a claim for a decent standard of wages which was made to him, was the fact that the surplus on the Post Office amounted only to £35,000. The Minister has now a surplus of £206,000, and whatever niggardly decision was based on the £35,000 the Minister should certainly open the purse further now in view of the fact that he has a surplus of £206,000 and that according to himself he anticipates that that surplus will be still greater after the commercial accounts for the year ending 31st March are made available. So far as that portion of the Minister's speech in which he indicates that he has shared some of this surplus with his staff is concerned, I would advise the Minister to ascertain the views of the staff. I can arrange to get him a monster meeting of the staff in Dublin; let him make the same speech to them, and I doubt if he will get even one in the audience to believe that he has the paternal interest in them that he has professed. The increases granted to the staff, having regard to the extent of the staff, were miserably low. The Minister has the unenviable record, in respect to the wages decision, that it is the most miserable decision that has ever been given in the long history of wages claims in the Post Office. It is recking with anomalies and inconsistencies and is based on some kind of illogical reasoning that one cannot follow by any process of understanding.
The Minister, as an employer on behalf of the community, has imposed on him the obligation to be a model employer. So far as the wages scales in operation in the Post Office are concerned the Minister is far from being a model employer, and, as has been demonstrated to him on numerous occasions, in many respects he employs persons at much lower rates of wages than are paid in outside industries. The Minister has not challenged that statement or denied the accuracy of it. The Minister himself knows perfectly well that many of the rates of wages paid to employees in private industries are very much higher than the rates of wages paid to employees in the Post Office.
I should like to remind the Minister, realising that he has now a surplus of  substantial dimensions, that that surplus has been yielded to him by the very severe reductions in the rates of pay of the Post Office staff during the past 15 years. This surplus would not have been made possible were it not for substantial reductions in wages. Realising that prosperity has now returned, and that he has a substantial surplus, the Minister should now share with the staff some of that surplus, a surplus made possible only by the sacrifices in wages that they have suffered in the last 15 years. In respect to the classes excluded from the recent decision, with the information in his possession now, the Minister ought to reconsider that decision so as to extend the increases all round, and to raise the figure to a level which will lift the staff above the low-wage classifications in which they are to-day, to grant an increase which will bear some relation to the surplus which has been yielded to the Minister on the operations for the year under review. That surplus is only yielded to the Minister by the ability, the energy and competence of the staff. The efficiency of the Post Office is only made possible by advertence to the same factors. With a surplus of such substantial dimensions, the Minister ought not to be hesitant in realising the obligation he owes to the staff to raise the wages to something like a tolerably decent level.
In previous years, I pressed the Minister to endeavour to have the new central sorting and delivery office at Pearse Street completed. During 1933 the Minister was so confident that he was going to get things done, that he stated that he had no hesitation in saying that the first portion of the building would be commenced in September, 1933; 1933 has passed, 1934 has passed, 1935 has passed, and we are now in March, 1936, and there is no sign of this work, which the Minister indicated in June, 1933, as likely to commence in September, 1933, being undertaken by the Department responsible. I do not know if the Minister has ever suffered the discomfort of remaining very long in the present disused distillery which serves as a post office in  Pearse Street. I can certainly congratulate the Minister on the fact that he has never had to work in that place, During the wet weather the roofs leak constantly, it is impossible to make it draught proof, while the interior of the building is utterly unsuitable for use as the chief central and delivery office. Mails are congested in it and the interior structurally is in a dilapidated condition. Generally, it is probably the most unsuitable building in Dublin that could be selected for use as a central sorting and delivery office.
In practically all the capitals of Europe one of the objects of interest is the chief post office. Many visitors to continental cities often pay a visit to the central post office there as something well worthy of interest from the architectural point of view. Visitors to this city desiring to see the central post office, wherein the mail traffic is dealt with might be introduced to a place in Pearse Street which was formerly utilised as a distillery. That building is anything but edifying from the point of view of visitors wanting to see the manner in which the central postal authority distributes mail traffic throughout the country. I can scarcely imagine that any difficulties could have arisen to delay the erection of the new central sorting and delivery office over such a prolonged period. The Minister was confident in 1933 that it could be erected in the course of a few months. Now, almost three years afterwards, the Minister is unable to get the work done which he indicated would be done in 1933, and apparently is no nearer providing a new office in Pearse Street than he was then. I would like the Minister definitely to tell the staff how many years they are to be compelled to remain in the filthy, insanitary place that serves as a central sorting and delivery office in Pearse Street. If the Minister were there for 24 hours, or if he had to put up with the inconvenience of doing night duty there, with the lack of heating, and draughts all around the place, he would not be long in realising that a new office would have to be built. If the Minister shifted his own office from O'Connell Street to Pearse Street  I suggest it would not be long until he would discover that there was need for improving the structural condition of the ramshackle building that serves as the central office. At all events, we ought to know from the Minister, when he makes the next guess, the latest date at which the office will be erected. I hope the Minister will be much more accurate in the next guess than the one he made three years ago.
Prior to 1932, when the Post Office Estimates were under discussion, we had Deputy Little and Deputy Goulding calling for an improvement in the classification of the Waterford office. Both of these Deputies were regarded as the two official spokesmen of Fianna Fáil on the question of the classification of the Waterford office. One would imagine from the speeches made by both Deputies at that period that once Fianna Fáil Party came into office they would have no great hesitation whatever in adjusting the grievance. As the Minister knows, the classification of the Waterford office is an outstanding grievance. The staff there has been agitating since 1908 to have put right a grievous wrong which was inflicted upon that office when it was irregularly and erroneously classified in that year. Efforts were made to induce the last Government to realise the obvious injustice that had been done to Waterford. At times these efforts look like yielding success, but in the end nothing was done by them to adjust the obvious grievance from which the Waterford office suffers. However, Deputy Little and Deputy Goulding then on behalf of the Fianna Fáil Party pleaded for an improvement in the classification. One would imagine that it was only necessary to draw the attention of the Post Office authorities to be assured that the grievance would be made right without delay. Although that was done, the Minister seemed reluctant to recognise the outstanding claims of the Waterford office for an improvement in its present classification. There was delay in 1932 on the part of the Minister of the period in recognising the claim of Waterford for better classification. However, in  February, 1933, Deputy Little took Waterford by storm during the general election of that month, and announced publicly that if the people there, and the Post Office staff in particular, had only the good sense to elect him and the Fianna Fáil administration, everything in the garden would be rosy as far as the classification of the office was concerned. Trusting a responsible, careful, cautious and prudent man, Deputy Little was returned with considerable support from those for whose votes he angled when he made that promise.
Now in March, 1936 the promise that Deputy Little made still remains unhonoured. Apparently the present Executive Council intend to treat the classification of the Waterford office in the same indifferent and cynical way as it has been treated by previous administrations both here and in Great Britain. However, the Minister cannot say that he has not had adequate time to consider the question. He is familiar with it for the past three years. Surely that is a sufficiently long time to enable the Minister to make up his mind, whether he is going to improve the classification of the Waterford office or whether he is going to allow the matter to drag on in the present unfair way. In 1933 Waterford was promised by Deputy Little that he would have the classification question raised. I do not believe that promise was made in an irresponsible way by Deputy Little. I believe it was made by the Deputy only after he received assurances that the classification of the office would be improved.
Quite apart from the merits of the case, the Government are in honour bound to redeem the promise that Deputy Little was apparently allowed to make on their behalf in 1933. To give an example of the outstanding injustice under which Waterford suffers, it is only necessary to say that post offices are classified for purposes of pay under three categories—Class I, Class II and Class III. Classification is based upon the local cost-of-living index figure, plus units of work. Where one is low the other must be correspondingly high. Waterford is  classified for the purposes of pay of the postmen the same as Dunmore East, Portlaw, and Pilltown. Although Waterford is a big busy city, with a population in the vicinity of 30,000, for the purpose of pay, in the case of the indoor staff, it is classified in the same way as Abbeyleix, Cashel, Clifden, Callan, and a number of other relatively small offices of that kind. Nobody would defend the injustice in the classification of the Waterford staff on that obviously inequitable basis. Having had the matter under consideration for three years I hope the Minister will now give some indication that there is likely to be a decision on the matter in the near future.
One thing I can congratulate the Minister on this year—the only thing I can congratulate him on—is the reduction of hours in respect of the grades, chiefly in the engineering and stores departments. The Minister has in this particular instance reduced the hours from 48 net per week to 44 net per week. I believe that is a beneficial reform from the point of view of the staff, and I believe it is a reform which will be appreciated by the staff. I believe that the repercussions of that reform in other respects will also have beneficial reactions from the staff point of view. I hope, therefore, that the problem, which is allied with the problem of working hours, will not escape the attention of the Minister.
The Post Office staff suffer from the peculiar injustice that they are denied any weekly half-holiday. Under the 1912 Early Closing Act, the workers in industry and commerce are allowed a weekly half-holiday. An obligation reposes in the State to enforce that Act to the extent of ensuring that workers in private employment are, under penalty, allowed a weekly half-holiday. Under the Conditions of Employment Act, recently passed by the Oireachtas, not only was that right which was then conferred upon industrial workers confirmed, but in some respects it was extended. You have, however, the curious anomaly that the State, which is charged with  the responsibility of ensuring compliance on the part of employers with the 1912 Act and with the Conditions of Employment Act, the State, which pursues the private employer in that respect, will not grant in respect to the manipulative staff in the Post Office Department the weekly half-holiday which it compels private employers to observe.
The entire staffs of every other Department of State—the Departments of Justice, the Land Commission, Agriculture, Industry and Commerce, and Finance—secure a weekly half-holiday, although they do not work for such long hours as the Post Office staff. In these particular instances the weekly half-holiday is provided, but in the case of the Post Office manipulative staff there is no weekly half-holiday provided. The Minister as a member of the Executive Council, is responsible for seeing that the Attorney-General does his duty in respect of private employers under the Acts I have referred to; but the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who ought to be in the dock more frequently than any private employer in relation to this matter, is, apparently, enabled to escape completely his obvious obligation to provide a weekly half-holiday for his own staff. That is an anomaly that has gone on for too long, and I hope the Minister will realise that in these days, and especially in view of the principle enshrined in the Conditions of Employment Act that a weekly half-holiday shall be provided for all industrial workers, a principle which is likely to be extended to other measures dealing with workers in other employment, he should take steps to ensure that a half-holiday is provided for the staff of the Department of which he is the administrative head. If he does that he will confer a substantial boon on the staff, and in any case he will ensure that they will have the same period for recreation, in respect of release from work, as the State is obliged to ensure that the outside employee is entitled to. A very grave anomaly at all events exists at present. It should not be allowed to continue, and I hope, now that the Minister has moved on the question of  hours in respect of the stores and engineering staffs, that he will open his mind in a sympathetic manner on the question of arranging that the Post Office staff will no longer be denied the weekly half-holiday which has been withheld from them for all too long.
There is another question to which I must again call the Minister's attention, and that is the question of part-time labour in the Post Office. I have already told the House that there are 3,700 part-time officers employed in the Post Office. One finds it difficult to believe that it is beyond the wit of man or the organising capacity of the administrative staff of the Post Office to devise a scheme by which that substantial number of part-time officers could be reduced by providing them with full-time employment. So far as the Minister is concerned, he is the employer of more part-time labour than any other single industry in the country. Part time employment is socially and economically unsound and it is particularly so when the persons concerned are paid wretchedly low rates of wages as occurs in the case of the Minister's employees. These 3,700 part-time employees perform very responsible work which calls for a very high standard of honesty and integrity. They serve the Post Office and the community with a zeal and enthusiasm which is remarkable, and all the more commendable because of the very poor reward which they receive from the Minister in the form of wages. When we come to examine the problem occasioned by the employment of these people, part-time, at lower rates of wages, we see at once the obvious inequalities which arise in the matter. Many of those who are employed by the Minister, part-time, receive less in wages than they would receive if they were in receipt of unemployment insurance benefit, and although the rates of benefit provided under the Unemployment Assistance Act are lower than the rates of benefit provided under the Unemployment Insurance Acts, the Minister will find, if he consults the wage scales in respect of his part-time employees, that many people are working for him for a rate  of wages which is less than they would receive under the Unemployment Assistance Act if they were not working at all. You have got, therefore, the peculiar anomaly that the Minister is employing persons for wages in the Post Office and is paying them less than they would get for doing nothing under the Unemployment Assistance Act.
That gives Deputies an idea of the measure of munificence which characterises the Minister's wretched wage levels so far as his own employees are concerned. It may be suggested, of course, that these persons can obtain outside employment, and that, in fact, many of them do that. Last year, I think, the Minister tried to get away with the suggestion that the Post Office took a test at certain offices as to the number of persons in part-time employment who had outside employment, and found that quite a considerable number of them had it. I do not know at what office the authorities took the test; I do not know whether it was in a town, city or a small rural area or whether it was confined to a few places where they knew the results they would get; but I have no hesitation in saying that the return is about as remote from realities as anything I have heard put up by the Post Office in defence of its action in any particular matter.
It is the sheerest nonsense to pretend to anybody who knows anything about the condition of part-time employees in the Post Office that a majority of them have outside employment. Let the Minister inquire how many of the 35 part-time employees in Dublin have outside employment or how many in Cork, Waterford, Galway, Limerick, Mullingar, Thurles or Nenagh have outside employment. Let the Minister inquire in Roscommon, in Castlerea and in Boyle how many people have outside employment and I am sure he will get an answer which will completely surprise him. What is the prospect of these persons being able to get outside employment? There are 143,000 people available for whole-time employment, registered at the employment exchanges and available for work at any hour of the night,  noon or morning, available to work eight, ten or 12 hours a day if their services are required. These 143,000 people cannot get work and what is the prospect then of a man being able to get work who is available only at certain hours that he selects himself. The postal authorities know perfectly well that these people have no outside employment; they know these people are compelled in the main to exist on the Post Office wages; they know, too, that these rates of wages are incapable of sustaining these people, having regard to their civic and domestic responsibilities. It is nothing short of a shame that the Post Office should expect them to exist on the miserably low rates of wages they are at present in receipt of, wages which are less than these people would get by way of unemployment insurance or in the form of unemployment assistance.
The Minister's proposal to share out certain moneys amongst telephone subscribers makes curious reading side by side with these facts. It has been suggested to the Minister time and time again that if he only had the courage and vision to face up to his responsibilities in respect of part-time employment in the Post Office he can substantially reduce the dimensions of the problem and modify substantially the wretched conditions of employment which exists. It has been suggested to the Minister that he should make a start in the cities and towns where persons are employed part-time and endeavour to build up part-time duties by the provision of additional services. In that way, he would help to create in a progressive manner an additional number of full-time duties. If that process were extended to the head offices throughout the country, and if the problem were tackled with vision, courage and some measure of sympathy, I have no hesitation in saying that not only could part-time labour there be abolished, but the public would receive a substantial improvement in the local services. In the course of time the examination might be extended to other offices, all aiming at the one objective, namely,  reducing the amount of part-time employment in the service generally. There is no insuperable difficulty in the way of the Minister getting rid of part-time employment in the cities and towns. His advisers must know it if he does not happen to know it himself. Whatever justification you may try to advance in respect of rural areas, you cannot defend part-time labour in the cities and towns. The problem in the cities and towns could be solved almost immediately if the postal authorities would only recognise their responsibilities.
The Department has been asked to effect a remedy by the organisation representing the staff. I would like to know from the Minister whether we can look forward to a substantial diminution of part-time employment in the cities and towns and if we could have an assurance that efforts will be made by the Minister to ensure that those persons whose posts are extended from part to full time will be automatically established when the full-time positions are created for them. To suggest that persons of 45 and 50 years of age should sit for a literary examination is something which will strike any Deputy as an unreasonable imposition. In the case of those people who have served for 20 or 30 years, there can be no question as to their efficiency. Indeed, no such question has ever arisen. If the Minister will only bestir himself, take a personal interest in the matter, and give instructions to his officials to spend some of the Post Office surplus in taking those people out of the wretched conditions in which they find themselves, I can assure him that he can come to the House next year feeling that, in so far as that portion of the surplus has been spent in improving the conditions of wretchedly paid people, it has been well spent, and the Minister will derive more satisfaction from so spending it than by devoting it to other purposes which, in the last analysis, simply mean giving something more to some who have already a substantial sum. He might well direct his expenditure amongst those who find it extremely difficult to exist on the present low rates of wages.
These are matters that intimately  affect the Post Office staff. It is through their brains and energy and ability that the Post Office service is maintained. I think it will be agreed by all sections of the House that the Post Office staffs have served the community faithfully, zealously and efficiently. It has always been their objective, no matter what they might think of the curious wage mentality of the authorities, to realise that they are the custodians of the interest and well-being of the public. They have not allowed their own domestic difficulties to intrude themselves in the matter of serving the public, and they have carried out their duties in as efficient a way as it is possible for any staffs to do. The Minister ought to recognise that that kind of service imposes an obligation on him to reciprocate. He has now reached the affluent stage of being in a position to command a surplus of £206,000. We earnestly trust that he will show his sympathy with those in the Post Office service in a practical way and that he will treat them in a much more liberal manner than they have been so far treated by this Government or their predecessors.
Mr. McMenamin: I really do not know what to say after that speech. I think this is the fourth year in succession that I have listened to that speech and, if I were a Post Office employee, having listened for the fourth year to the same speech, under the circumstances that exist I think I would require a cocktail to brace me up a bit. What is the position of Deputy Norton in this matter? I do not question any allegation he has made with regard to the position of the staff—I accept that—but for four years he has been in weekly or fortnightly consultation with the Government in relation to policy and administration and what has he done for those whom he represents? He is the direct representative in this House of the Post Office Workers' Union and for four years he has come here and delivered the same speech, using all the adjectives he has used describing the conditions of these people. I do not know what Deputy Norton thinks, as representing the Post Office workers, but I  know what I would think if I represented them in the same capacity. I would think that it was about time I was silent in representing them. That litany has been dished out here for the past four years. Apparently Deputy Norton has been in fortnightly touch with the Government during all that period and yet the position is the same as it was four years ago except for some little improvement in working hours with regard to the stores staff. Apart from that, there has been no improvement. Then he asked the Minister to call a mass meeting of the Post Office workers to tell him what the Post Office staff think of the Minister. I wonder would Deputy Norton think of calling a mass meeting of the workers and let them tell Deputy Norton what they think of his efforts during the past four years towards improving their position.
Mr. McMenamin: Well, Sir, I hope that all Deputy Norton's speech was not irrelevant and I was only referring to that point. I am very glad to see these accounts presented so very efficiently, but there are one or two matters about which I should like a little explanation. I welcome the concessions that have been made, but at the same time I must say that I am disappointed. In the time of the Minister's predecessor, I appealed to him, in connection with this Vote, to take his courage in his hands and bring about reductions in the charges for the telegraph and telephone services. Of course, no attention was paid to that. I complained of various things, such as the charging of the extension of lines to built up areas, and the putting of the charges on the new subscribers, with the result that those coming on afterwards will reap the benefit of these things after these  people have paid for them. What I regret about this is that the Minister, as representing this country, is apparently keeping in step with the Imperial Government in the step he is taking now. I notice that it is a common phrase up in the north of Ireland that the Belfast Parliament is keeping in step with the British Government. Could we not here have a bit of vision? Could we not have had it two years ago, or even last year?
I suggested two years ago that this step should be taken because it was obvious, from a commercial point of view, that the charges being made were strangling these two services. It was obvious that you were not going to extend a business such as this or any other business so long as you had such charges as then existed. They strangled the services and they strangled the prosperity of the Government. Here we come along now in 1936, a year after the English Postmaster-General, in April, 1935, introduced his Budget and brought about the reductions the counterpart of which we are now getting. Are we merely limpets that we have to step in the trail of these gentlemen? Are we to sit like oysters in our shells and only open when some other oyster opens and when we are compelled to do it? It is only now, 14 or 15 years after this State was created and took over these services, that we have these reductions. One could understand the State being conservative for the first few years and not doing anything revolutionary, but as the country was expanding and developing and new industries were being inaugurated in the country, it was obvious that a little courage and vision was required in this matter, and I think that nobody can say now that this was done for that reason at all. It is simply being done in order to keep in step with Great Britain. That is the feeling I have about it. It is not a hostile criticism at all. I have a feeling of regret that we should have to come along now and do this a year after Great Britain introduced these concessions. The Minister's predecessor and the Minister himself should have thought of reducing the charges  for telephone and telegraph services a year, or two years, or even three years ago, but instead of that we come limping along in 1936 and the taunt can be thrown at this country that we are merely keeping step with Great Britain, marching along step by step with Lord Craigavon in Ulster and step by step with the British Government.
Now, with regard to these concessions—they are quite satisfactory, as far as they go, in some respects. There are concessions on the parcel post service. That is all to the good in developing the trade and commerce of the country, but I think the Minister will agree with me that there should also be a reduction in the letter post, and I think that perhaps the Minister will regret that he was not a bit bolder and that, when he did make a concession in regard to the parcel post service, he did not, conjointly with that, reduce the ordinary letter postage to 1½d. or 1d. I think that, when he took the step of reducing the parcel post in an effort to help the trade and commerce of the country, it was incumbent on him to reduce the letter post also. I suggest to the Minister that, between this and July, he should take steps to see that a reduction in the letter post will come into operation along with the reduction in the parcel post. As I said before, courage will pay in this matter. Time has proved that, but of course we had to wait for Great Britain, and then the Minister was prepared to do the goose-step along with Great Britain! I appeal to the Minister to take steps between this and July to reduce the letter post to 1½d. or 1d., because the surplus here is quite equal to meeting that burden.
I have said here before that a little courage is needed in dealing with the telegraph service. Again, I repeat that that service is being strangled by the charges. No sensible person would think of sending a telegram to any distance nowadays at a charge of 1/6. If a person wants to send an urgent message he has got to plank down 1/6 in the Post Office. That would strangle anything. If you want to have a good service, a service that is going to be popular, you must give value, and you are not giving value. It looks, apparently,  as if it were the policy of the Post Office to completely wipe out the telegraph system. I wonder is that a wise thing for the future commercial development of this country; because you can walk in at any moment, or any firm can send a message over the telephone to the Post Office to send a telegram, and it goes away immediately, whereas in the case of commercial trunk calls—and a commercial house may urgently want a trunk call— you may have to wait for an hour or two hours, according to the time the line is occupied. I think that the Minister should go a step further in that direction also and reduce the telegraph charges. He gives a reduction here with regard to porterage, but that does not touch the core of the question at all. If the telegraph system is to be of any use to the commercial life of this country, the question of porterage does not arise at all. Large factories are always situated in towns or villages in which the Post Office is situated, and so the question of porterage does not arise in such cases. The question of porterage only arises in the extended use of the telephone or the telegraph. If the Post Office is making a concession to telephone users in cities and urban areas, surely some concession should be made to the rural population. Surely the Minister should realise that there is an agricultural community, and that it is a very important community. What advantage is the agricultural community getting out of these concessions? None whatever. Somebody sends a wire living in the country because they cannot send a telephone message. What is the Minister doing for those people? He is taking steps to help the factories and the ordinary industrial concerns. What is he doing for the great basic industry in this country? Nothing, except that there is to be relief in the parcel post rates. Otherwise nothing is being done for them. That great industry is completely forgotten. Like the slaughter of calves, this great industry is being slaughtered.
Mr. McMenamin: There are two or three suggestions over and above those put by Deputy Norton that were made. First there is the suggestion of the reduction of the letter post; secondly, the reduction of the telegraph rates, which would be of great relief to the agricultural community. I ask the Minister to consider that. I think he will agree that in these concessions he is giving the agricultural community no relief. The agricultural industry of this country is a greater industry than the manufacturing industry. The Minister has given concessions costing £70,000. What is the value of the concession he is giving to the basic industry of the country—agriculture? He is giving a concession to the industrial or commercial houses, when sending out parcels, by reducing the rates of the parcel post. In some cases, if not in all cases, where farmers or their families purchase parcels up to 10/-, they are sent free by the firm from whom they are purchased, so that in that respect there is no concession at all to agriculturists.
There are a couple of matters in the Minister's statement that I suppose are technical. I do not quite understand them. I notice in one paragraph it is stated “The general effect of the rental and free radius charges will be that the rentals of about 2,550 existing subscribers, including subscribers in suburban districts, such as Cabra and Mount Merrion in Dublin, will be reduced by amounts varying from £1 to £22 10s. according to the circumstances in each case.” That seems a very wide gap. There is a range of from £1 to £22 10s. That, of course, may be dealing with something technical, and the Minister might deal with it later. I asked the Minister about the telegraph business. The porterage concession is futile. I think it is miserable, and one might say contemptible. If the Minister was out to do a pretty decent thing in regard to part-time workers and had some courage I think he should have widened his radius further. That  concession of 3d. on porterage is useless and will have no effect. The Minister says in the second last paragraph of his report that his concessions are going to amount to £70,000 on a profit of £202,000. But with that profit there is ample room for him to take the steps I have suggested. They would not cost anything approaching the balance he has. I suggest that he ought to meet Deputy Norton's demand and increase the wages of the workers.
Now on the question of trunk calls the statement as put into the Minister's report is misleading. The paragraph in regard to this matter states there is to be a:—“General reduction of charges for trunk calls, including the introduction of a maximum fee of 2/6 for day calls to all places within the Saorstát, and a 4/- maximum to all places in Great Britain and Northern Ireland. For night calls there will be a maximum fee of 1/- on all calls to the Saorstát, Great Britain and Northern Ireland.” But then the statement goes on to say there will be:—“The supplementary cable fee of 1/- on day calls and 6d. on night calls to Great Britain will still be charges in addition to the normal trunk fee”... I submit that will prove to be misleading. The public will think that they will get night calls to Great Britain, for the sum mentioned, that is 1/-, whereas, in fact, they will not. They will be asked for 1/6 while they will think that they should only be asked for 1/-. The 6d. is a cable charge and does not go to the Post Office. But the public will not see that. It will have gone out to the public that the charge is 1/- whereas it is 1/6. In the leaflet issued, or to be issued it would be better that that charge be put down as 1/6 or not 1/-; otherwise it will lead to a lot of endless trouble for the staffs and the exchanges. I congratulate the Minister on making these reductions. I am very pleased about it but I regret that the step was not taken sooner.
The question of wages which is a major question, from the human  standpoint, should have been dealt with first. It was very elaborately dealt with by Deputy Norton. I join with Deputy Norton in appealing to the Minister to use some of the profits of the Post Office for the increase of salaries and wages, particularly seeing the way they run now. I suggest to the Minister that it is immoral that profits of £202,000 should be made out of the labour of a body of people who are underpaid. I do not want to put it any stronger than that and I do not want to put it on any lower basis either. It is immoral and cannot be defended either inside or outside this House. There is a very large number of those full-time and part-time workers who have given priceless service to the Post Office of this State not only with work but with integrity. It is that work, that loyalty and that integrity which have produced this profit of £202,000 for the State. I think the Minister should definitely make up his mind that the Department of Finance must not be permitted to gobble up this huge profit—because for a small State like this it is a huge profit— while the people who make that profit are underpaid. I do not think the meanest employer could contend that there is not a large number of those people who are underpaid. I hope that before this Vote comes before this House next year some steps will be taken to improve conditions with regard to the pay of those people.
There is a fundamental moral reason why their pay should be increased. If you have a huge staff, either in the service of the State or in private employment, who are underpaid and who are producing great profit, you are at once laying the door open for dishonesty. It is a remarkable tribute to the workers of the Post Office that, in the circumstances of their employment—they take this employment simply because there is nothing else, and it is a question of getting a few shillings in some way—they maintain such a standard of integrity and honesty. I think the State is bound, now that the Post Office is making this huge profit, to give immediate consideration to this question. As a matter of fact, I would almost go as  far as Deputy Norton and say that the demands of the employees take priority over those of the telephone subscribers. I am a telephone subscriber myself, and much as I appreciate the reduction made here, I would forego them on behalf of the staff. I do appeal to the Minister on their behalf, and urge that in the future if any concessions are being made they should be made to the staff. Again, I ask the Minister to reduce the letter postage and the telegraph cost. He has sufficient time to do that between now and the inauguration of those concessions in July. Secondly, I ask him to make up his mind between now and next year that the employees will reap some benefit of the profits made out of this organisation.
Mr. Briscoe: I do not propose to delay the House very long with the small contribution I have to make to the debate on this Estimate. I had intended to raise only one matter, but having listened to the previous speaker, I decided to deal with one or two other matters. Some years ago in this House when the Estimate was being introduced by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs at that time I could not help contributing to the debate, and in my opening remarks I remember distinctly referring to the Parliamentary Secretary as a psycho-pathological optimist. I was reminded of that in a slightly different category when listening to the last speaker. I came to the conclusion that he was a psycho-pathological pessimist. The Deputy seriously wanted us to believe that he had given some thought to the remarks he was making. He took great pains to point out that the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs was just marching in step with the English Postmaster-General, and that because a reduction had been made there a reduction was being made here, but he completely neglected the fact that the reason why we have reductions here in the various postal services is because we have a surplus; it is not because we are marching in step with the English Postmaster-General. I think the Minister is to be congratulated  from all sides of the House on the wonderful progress he has made in his Department since he took it over, and on abolishing the very considerable deficit which had occurred year after year consistently until he took over the administration of this particular Department.
Another amusing thing was to hear the Deputy from Donegal pleading with the Minister on behalf of what he referred to as the underpaid workers. I could quite appreciate Deputy Norton taking that line and expressing his views quite sincerely. He has intimate knowledge of the matter, and he has a certain function as a result of the position he holds in this country as leader of the Labour Party, but I am sure Deputies on all sides of the House know that when it comes to making a case for the workers, particularly for the lower grades, we would be only wasting time in pushing an open door, because I think it will be agreed that there is no man in this House who has greater consideration or greater desire to do something for that class of worker than the present Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.
What I wanted to ask the Minister was to arrange, if it was possible, to give a night service in many of the smaller towns or urban districts that have no telephone service after a certain hour. The Minister is aware, as the House is aware, that for the past few years there has been a considerable number of industrial undertakings established in various parts of the country outside of the City of Dublin, and it is most inconvenient for some of those establishments to have their telephone connection cut off at 8 o'clock and not available until the next morning. On previous occasion when I approached the Minister on this matter he assured me that every thought was being given to this angle but that it was a matter of technical and engineering difficulty. Now, in view of the extensive increase in usage of the telephone services throughout the country, I would ask him to make a very special effort to give this extra service in those places where there is no night service. I  believe, incidentally, that if he did give that extra service it would help to put some of the part-time officials on full time. I understand that even before the considerable reductions which have been given in the telephone charges were mooted a great number of the persons who are telephone users were prepared to pay extra for the service they would get. Deputy McMenamin surprised me when he said he was a telephone subscriber, because from his expressions in regard to the telephone service I was convinced that he did not use the telephone at all.
Mr. Briscoe: The Deputy said he was a telephone subscriber, and I was surprised to hear him make that admission, because any Deputy who could get up in this House and say that it took from one to two hours to get a trunk call——
Mr. Briscoe: No; we have not got a telephone yet in Wicklow; we may have it later on. I want to say that I have also used the telephone service on the Continent and in England, and I must say that both for local and trunk calls our telephone service is up to the best standard of telephone services elsewhere. There are no such delays.
Mr. Briscoe: As long as the Deputy makes it clear that it was not his suggestion that these delays occur, I am satisfied to apologise if I misunderstood him. I want to appeal to the Minister to try and give the community the benefit that would accrue by giving extended telephone services in urban areas where telephone exchanges close at 8 p.m. and people are completely cut off as a consequence, except that they have the use, as the Minister will probably tell us, of the Gárda station telephone. It is not always convenient for people to go to the Gárda station to make telephone calls and I hope the Minister will seriously consider making an attempt, within this financial year, to give these services.
Mr. Costello: My purpose in rising is not to demonstrate to the Minister that it is quite possible, within the rules of relevance and the rules of the House, to raise the economic war on this Estimate. That was not my purpose, although I should like, as he has raised the point, to direct his attention to item P of the Estimate for the Post Office Savings Bank on page 279, and also to an item on page 285 for Colonial, Foreign and British Packet services, and then pass away from them, much I am sure to the relief of the Ceann Comhairle. Item P is: “Provision to meet deficiencies due to the withholding by the British Government of sums in connection with claims for superannuation payments and telephone annuities disputed by the Saorstát Government—£33,892.” The sum you are paying to the British Government for carrying the Irish mails is £26,000, referred to on page 285.
Mr. Costello: You are paying £33,000 out of the taxpayers' money and not setting off the £26,000, because you know that the British will not carry the mails unless you pay spot cash. My point is not to raise the economic war on this Estimate, nor had I intended even to refer to the two items I have referred to were it not for the interruption of the Minister. Nor do I intend to refer to the fact that one of  the principal reasons explaining the increase of the Estimate for the Post Office services this year is the increase in the bonus due to the rise in the cost of living. But I cannot refrain from commenting on the fact that one of the Minister's colleagues within the last few weeks drew attention to the fact that the cost of living had come down very considerably. Now, we find the Minister telling the House that one of the reasons for the increase in the Estimate is the increase in the cost of living.
The real reason why I rise on this Estimate is to associate myself in some way with the remarks of Deputy Norton in connection with the Post Office employees. I think it is not proper that the House should be used for the purpose of giving bouquets to the service. I think none of the civil servants in any branch of the service require public representatives to get up here and present them with bouquets and comment on the fact that they are giving good service. Their attitude is that it is all in the day's work. I agree with Deputy Norton that it is a tribute that should be paid to the Post Office employees that, although they have laboured under extensive grievances for the last fifteen years—I shall include the previous administration period as well as the present administration period— in fact, they have given very loyal, efficient and zealous service to the public and have not allowed their grievances to obtrude on their public duties. I think it is right that an exception should be made in their case, and that a tribute should come from this side of the House to the Post Office employees in that connection.
The Minister has taken, I presume, a certain pride in the fact that he is able to announce that he has on the Post Office services, a surplus of £206,800. It has always been the policy of Governments in this country —it was the policy of the Administration that preceded the present one— that the Post Office services should be self-sufficient, and that the charges paid by the people who got the services should be sufficient to enable the services to be run without any demand  being made on the taxpayers. Each year successively since the establishment of the Irish Free State the Post Office has been so efficiently run and the charges to the public who use the telephone, telegraph and other services made with such precision, that progressively each year there has been a diminution of the deficit that the Post Office showed for some years, and, consequently, there has been less and less demand on the taxpayers to keep the Post Office running.
We have now reached the stage when there is no demand on the taxpayers' pocket. Not merely is there no demand on the taxpayers' pocket, but there is a surplus of £206,000. I think that, following the principle on which the Post Office services have been run since the establishment of the Free State, they were to be run as a business proposition, when there is a surplus on the running of these services, that surplus should be put into the business, just as would be done in connection with any private enterprise, and that no portion of the £206,000 should go to the Minister for Finance.
I do not know whether it is intended by the Minister, after he has given the benefit of the reduced charges to telephone subscribers and to other public users of the services, and after he has made provision for the reduction in the working hours, and the increases in pay to certain classes of the Post Office employees, to hand over the residue to the Minister for Finance. If he intends to do that I think we ought to register a protest against it. I suggest that portion of that surplus should be used in a businesslike way, and that the way any business house, running an enterprise of this kind, would use its surplus should be adopted by the Minister. In other words, that he should continue the policy so far as it is possible, of reducing the charges to the public, on the principle, not merely of reducing the charges to the public, but because these reductions of charges would themselves result ultimately in increased revenue to the Post Office, and that the balance of the sum, if not the greater portion—I would go the length of saving the greater portion of this sum—should be devoted to the  improvement of the conditions of the Post Office employees.
I take the stand, and have always taken the stand, that you will not get properly efficient service from any body of employees, whether employed by outside firms or by the State, unless their conditions are stable and unless they are satisfied with their terms and conditions of employment. We have here a certain surplus. Undoubtedly the employees of the Post Office have been the most badly paid servants of the State, not merely in the time of the present Administration but in the time of the last Administration, and in the time of the British Government. Anomalies exist there that do not exist in any other portion of the Civil Service. The one referred to by Deputy Norton is rather incomprehensible—that a certain class of these employees have no weekly half-holiday. My primary purpose in rising here was to support the proposition that the greater portion of that surplus, so far as it cannot be granted towards the reduction of charges—which by reason of the fact that their reduction may probably result in increased revenue are really not a liability—should be given towards the relief or part relief of some of the difficulties of the Post Office employees.
There is one other matter to which I would like to refer. Everyone likes to make his own pet suggestion to the Minister as to how he should employ his surplus. Deputy McMenamin has made one suggestion. I want to make one purely personal suggestion. I would like to know what revenue is produced to the Minister by the 6d. tax delivery on parcels? That is a tax which annoys me personally. In the course of and for the purposes of my profession I get certain books and whether the parcels are small or big I have to pay a 6d. tax each time. I want to know whether that charge could be removed or whether it is of sufficient importance to justify its retention. It is to many people a very irritating charge. A tax of 6d. on a small parcel is a very heavy burden.
 The last thing to which I want to refer is the question of promotion. I put down a question some time ago on information supplied me about a certain Post Office in the County Dublin. I do not propose to reopen that matter. It was suggested to me that the office in question had been filled in a way that was not proper or which did not commend itself to the staff; that it was in itself unfair and unjust to the senior members of the staff. I do wish to say this—that there are certain indications that promotions in the Civil Service are not being given in the ordinary way to officers who have gone into the Civil Service in the usual fashion and who have spent all the years of their lives there where they had been led and properly led to believe that the usual customary promotion would be given to them. There are indications that the rule is being departed from in other branches of the Civil Service. It may be that the information that was given to me about the particular postal official about whom I asked the question was inaccurate. I do not know. At all events the Minister stated in answer to my question that it was inaccurate and I accept that. I do want an assurance from the Minister that in connection with all promotion in his Department he will give it to serving officials and that no question of political considerations will be taken into account in making these appointments.
Mr. T. Kelly: There is great activity on the northern front, there is great activity on the southern front, and further engineering activity on the eastern and western fronts in the erection of further telephone pill boxes. Some years ago I think I referred to this great activity of the Department. I suggested then that some improvements might be made in the way of embellishment but those suggestions were not accepted. I do not want to submit to the Minister any further embellishments beyond the geranium pots. Does the Minister understand that he is planting these boxes in the pedestrians' way? I had occasion recently to get quite a start at finding where these boxes were put. One of  them was certainly the cause of a loss of memory, a thing that had not happened before, but it was too soon. About Harold's Cross or Rathgar I met one of these boxes right in the middle of the pathway. I walked around it twice. I could not actually place the spot where it is. It is the first time that I lost my memory and I was perfectly sober at the time. It would have been some consolation to me if I had not been perfectly sober, for then I would know the loss of memory was only trivial. Leaning up against the newest erection in the street the other day waiting for a bus, I came to the conclusion that telephone users were so many that it means that almost every man now has his own telephone. If we are not to have a surfeit of these boxes, I suggest that they be decently painted. Some time ago when I raised the matter they were daubed all over with blue. That was supposed to be the winning colour at the time. Those who thought that were, in my opinion, colourblind. They are now painted green, white and yellow, and still sustain the national cause.
College Green is one of the most magnificent thoroughfares in the world. Every Dublin man is proud of it, and must naturally be. What do we see there? I was not there to-day, but I was there yesterday and saw twin boxes there. Why not add another one and make it triplets? You might get a bounty for doing it. They are in College Green fronting the back of Grattan's statue with their backs exposed to the people. They are a dirty yellow and have not been painted for 12 months. I do not regard that as a laughing matter at all. I regard it as a very serious thing. I am not blaming the Minister. I am blaming his officers who oversee these things. These officers ought to be commanded to keep them in decent repair and not allow them to become eyesores. I do not know whether the resources of civilisation are yet exhausted in the planning out of these constructions. Surely in other cities and towns there are receptacles for public telephones, and receptacles that do not become eyesores.
Why these special erections were made I do not know. I asked a couple  of people and they told me it was well planned out in the Department. I was told that archaeologists were consulted about them. Designs were submitted to the Post Office; it took a long time, but eventually one man's designs were accepted. One man told me that they were really a relic of the stone age, that these were the sort of things that people used throw at one another in the stone age. Another man suggested that over 200 years ago some sort of piers like these were erected in Scotland by the then Duke of Argyle. At the time the Scottish people suffered from some skin disease, and it was thought necessary to erect those posts or milestones. The Scottish people offered a prayer for the Duke of Argyle every time they used them. Now we have them in the streets of Dublin.
I wish to refer the Minister to a point of which I am painfully aware every day and that is, that his Department is responsible for removing seven or eight houses out of St. Andrew Street within the last two years. St. Andrew Street is a very important thoroughfare close to College Green. As everybody knows, it was a centre of professional life. These seven or eight houses have been removed in the last two years. These ruins or remains lie there now with a wooden paling round them. Only for the fact that the Town Planning Act—which gave some protection to this class of place by putting a paling over it—has been passed, I think I would get the corporation to move that they take over that derelict site now. I say that because, unfortunately, the Minister's Department, or whoever is responsible for the decision in connection with this place, is apparently not going to move. It is not good enough to have in the centre of commercial Dublin the sites of six large houses lying derelict.
I should like the Minister to tell us when he proposes to rebuild on these sites, if his Department is responsible at all. I think when I spoke to him some time ago, in regard to the matter, he referred me to the Agricultural Co-operative Company and  said that they were the people responsible. Whoever is responsible for it should see that that eyesore—and it is an eyesore—should be removed. It may seem a commonplace thing for me to say, but it would provide a good deal of employment. I am perfectly certain that if these sites were available they would be rapidly taken up by speculators of one type or another. I know one man who has built a house in that street and it cost up to £2,000 or £3,000. I hope the Minister will bear my representations in mind and take steps to have these eyesores removed. We must always remember, as I have frequently stated here, that Dublin is the metropolitan city of Ireland. In no other city of its class would this condition of affairs be tolerated. Having drawn the Minister's attention to it, I hope that when his Estimate is introduced next year, I, like other members, will be able to congratulate him, not on an avalanche of pill boxes, but on the reconstruction of these derelict buildings.
Dr. Rowlette: In the debate on this Estimate last year, I drew the attention of the Minister to certain aspects of the postal service which are very unsatisfactory from the public point of view. I regret that I could repeat almost verbatim to-day the complaints I then made as in regard to none of them has any improvement been made. We recognise that the Minister is anxious to give better services and we welcome the promised cheaper telephone services in the near future. In the first place, I wish to draw attention to the fact that the postal services of Dublin still remain on the war basis on which they were established about 20 years ago, and that they are much worse than they were 25 or 30 years ago. No attempt has been made to improve the services since the end of the War. The postage, of course, is dearer than it used to be. The last delivery in the day being about 3 o'clock and the last hour at which a letter may be posted in Dublin for delivery the same day being about 12.30 p.m., it follows that in ordinary cases it takes 48 hours to get a reply  to a letter posted in Dublin. A letter posted at 1 p.m. is not delivered until the following morning. Only replies to such letters posted about noon, or shortly afterwards, would be delivered within the city that day. Unless a reply is posted about noon or shortly afterwards, the reply cannot be received within the city until the following morning. That practically means that business men or professional men cannot hope to get replies to their letters within 48 hours.
I may, of course, be told by the Minister that the citizens of Dublin rely more on the telephone than on the post, but he must recognise that for many purposes the telephone is not a satisfactory means of communication. Many people will not use the telephone and have to rely on the post. I would ask the Minister to consider the possibility of re-establishing the evening services as formerly. We had two evening deliveries, one about 7 or 8 p.m., in which letters which had come across on the English mail were delivered, and another on which letters which had come up on the late evening trains from the country were delivered. Surely it is within the Minister's power to arrange for at least one evening delivery, so as to enable citizens to get their country letters and the foreign letters which come across from England on that evening. At present, of course, the day mail service from Holyhead to Dublin is of no use to the citizens of Dublin because the letters are not delivered until the following morning, an hour or two before the letters which come across by the morning mail, both being in time for the opening of business. It is hard to understand why we should, after so many years, have to put up with a worse service than we were getting 25 or 30 years ago.
I drew the Minister's attention last year also to the amazing charges for letters sent out from Ireland by air mail. He gave me an explanation which, as far as it went, was entirely satisfactory, but it did not cover the whole ground. He said that the charges were those imposed by the people who ran the air-mail services and that he had no power to reduce  those charges. I should like to know, however, why people at the other end are able to send letters back here for considerably less than we are able to send them out. A letter by air mail to South Africa from the Irish Free State costs 1/3 or 1/4 while a letter from South Africa to the Irish Free State by air mail costs only 6d. How is it that the people in South Africa are able to get a service at less than half it costs us for an exactly similar service in the reverse direction? We hear a great deal of talk about the extension of air mail services and, of course, such services are of enormous value to those who have business connections in faroff countries. It seems to me amazing, however, that it should cost twice as much to send a letter from Ireland to South Africa as to send a letter from South Africa back to Ireland. If the South African Ministers are able to make good bargains with the British Government, surely the Free State Minister should be able to make equally good bargains. I can quite understand that he may not be able to get for us all the benefits that the British Government would give to its own people, but we ought to be able to get as much as any other Dominion can get out of the British Government. I trust that by this time next year the Minister will have redressed some of these grievances which I have brought for the second time to his notice.
Donnchadha Ui Bhriain: Níl uaim, a Leas-Chinn Comhairle, ach aon puinnte amháin a chur ós comhair an Aire. Tá mór-chuid daoine sa tír anois agus an chuid sin ag dul i méid inaghaidh an lae, gur mian leo aon ghnó a bhíon le déanamh acu le h-Oifig an Phuist do dhéanamh i nGaedhilg. Nílím sásta go bhfuil freastal dá dhéanamh ar Ghaedhilgeóirí sa nidh seo mar ba cheart. Ba chóir go bhféadfaí an obair a riaradh ins na cathracha agus ins na bailtí móra, ar a laighead, i slighe is go mbéadh fuircann i ngach oifigh a dhéanfadh freastal ar Ghaedhilgeóirí is ná beadh ortha casadh ar an mBéarla, fé mar is minic a bhíon ortha a dhéanamh, do réir mar atá an riaradh fé láthair. Sin an t-aon rud amháin, a Leas-Chinn  Chomhairle, ba mhian liom tagairt dó, cómh fada is a bhaineann leis an Meastachán so.
Mr. Corish: I should like to add a word to the protest made by Deputy Norton in connection with the treatment meted out to some postal workers. Deputy Costello a few moments ago said that he was glad to see that the Post Office Department was becoming self-supporting. I do not think it can be said that any undertaking is self-sufficient or self-supporting so long as it has people working for it who are not getting anything like a living wage. I suggest to the Minister that before any concessions were given the public, no matter how welcome they are, some attention should have been paid to the representations made in recent years to the Minister by Deputy Norton on behalf of the postal workers. It is apparent to everyone that there has been a considerable increase in postal traffic of every description during the past one or two years, and that it is in consequence of that there is a surplus. That means that the postal workers have had a considerable amount of extra work thrown on their shoulders. Notwithstanding the benefits that accrued from greater activities in postal circles, these workers have not benefited to any extent. I suggest to the Minister that he could not withstand the statements of Deputy Norton if he had any desire to do anything on behalf of the people who are working in the Department. Deputy Norton dealt with the position of part-time workers and auxiliary postmen. Some time last year the Minister told us that in a great many cases these people had other work. If he had gone into the matter more carefully he would have found that very few of the auxiliary postmen or part-time workers have other work, because they are not available every day in the week or for many hours each day. Seeing that there are large numbers unemployed at present, no employer is going to take advantage of the services of the other men.
I want to call the Minister's attention to the position of postmen in the Wexford area. On the 21st of last December a certain increase in basic rates was announced for postmen.  Unfortunately, Wexford did not come under that increase, which was given in towns like Cobh and Bray. I am not going to admit that a Wexford man is any worse worker, so to speak, than the men in Bray or Cobh. Up to that the basic rate in Wexford was 34/- and in Bray and Cobh 37/-. It is regrettable that there was ever any difference there. One would have thought when the basic rate was altered in Cobh and Bray that it would have been altered in Wexford, and in towns which are as important as Cobh or Bray. The difference before the increase was given was 3/- a week; it is now 4/- a week. I would like to know from the Minister why no increase was given to postmen in Wexford town. As far as auxiliary postmen are concerned it will be admitted that the miserable rate of pay of these people would be a disgrace to any private employer or any State employer, when it is remembered that in the rural areas, where they are only working two or three days weekly, the rate is generally 9¾d. an hour. While one can understand the small rate of pay, one cannot understand how these persons exist.
We know the arduous work that auxiliary postmen have to do. They have to be out in all weathers and the pay for the first five years is the munificent sum of 9¾d. an hour. I suggest to the Minister that he has certainly no reason to feel pleased with himself for giving a reduction of telephone charges, as long as men are working in the Department for such disgraceful wages. The wages of the permanent postmen are bad enough but the wages of the temporary men are infinitely worse. I thought I heard Deputy McMenamin saying, when he was speaking, that the reduction in the porterage charges on telegrams was not worth speaking about, that nobody bothered about them. When the Farmers' Party was in this House I remember distinctly that hours and hours were wasted—we must assume now that the time was wasted seeing that no benefit is said to be derived by a reduction of these charges—by the Farmers' Party advocating  such reductions. It is now suggested that a concession of 50 per cent. is not a concession. I think none of these concessions should have been made until the demands of the postal workers were dealt with by the Minister. He should have taken cognisance of what was said by Deputy Norton, and some of the surplus money which has accrued during the past twelve months should have been made available immediately to enable him to do something for workers who have certainly been treated in a disgraceful manner.
Mr. Corry: I join in the congratulations to the Minister on some of the reductions that have been made, but I wish to point out that there have been appeals for increased services, for night calls and other things from Deputies representing areas that have services, the expense of which has been borne by the ordinary taxpayers and farmers for a number of years. As far as I can see none of the reductions announced is of any benefit to farmers. I suggest that the Minister should consider the position of ordinary farmers who only get the post two or three times weekly. That is the only service they get for this expenditure. Before there was any reduction in telephone services or anything else that question of giving farmers a daily post might have been considered, seeing that it is the taxpayers who have for the past 15 years carried these services on their backs. We heard appeals from one source or another for more services. I wish to point out that the provision of extra services would help out in connection with the employment of part-time men about whom Deputy Norton rightly complains. Deputies opposite knew of the small wages paid these men for twelve years but they closed their eyes to the position. Now we have them and the Labour Party appealing for increased wages. From my knowledge of the Minister I say that no Deputy has more at heart the case of the ordinary workers than he has. I suggest that he would like to be generous, but before he gives other reductions he should spend money on ordinary postal workers. I  commend to him especially the case of the auxiliary postmen. It is all right for the gentleman here in the city who can turn out in a good coat and do his rounds in a couple of hours. It is different altogether with the poor fellow down the country who has to travel along bohereens and climb over ditches to deliver letters to houses many of them scattered far apart, and all that for a miserable wage. As Deputy Corish has pointed out, I think that this class of postmen should receive the first measure of the Minister's generosity if he finds it possible to increase wage payments. That should be done before reductions are made in telephone charges. When heavy losses were sustained on this service in years gone by they had to be borne mainly by the farmer who only gets a delivery of his letters two or three days a week. I suggest to the Minister that he might now look into the matter and see if he could not arrange for a daily delivery of letters in the rural areas.
I think it was said here previously in debates on this Estimate that the only letter the farmer received by post was a bill for his seeds, and for that reason that he would much prefer to have only a weekly delivery. Still, when a notification is sent out to a farmer that his seeds have arrived in the local town it is only right that it should not be held up for two or three days. I think that if the Minister has any reductions to give he should first consider the taxpayers down through the country who have been carrying the city people on their backs for a number of years. It is about time that the people for whom I speak got something out of this service.
Mr. Boland: I am not excluding anybody. I must say that I compliment Deputy Norton on the success he has achieved. He got away with it last year when I was left with only about  ten minutes to reply. Of course, if I had moved to report progress the debate might have gone on during the whole of the following day, but having had experience as a Whip and realising the value of parliamentary time, I did not bother to move to report progress. I did get an opportunity afterwards of replying in a debate on a motion for the adjournment. I am not going to admit that, in comparison with the wages paid to people doing the same kind of work in outside industries, the Post Office people are badly paid. I admit that there is a low level of remuneration for manual workers all round, much lower than I would like to see. I maintain that the Post Office workers are, comparatively speaking, as well paid as any other class of worker in the country.
I regret very much that it is not possible to do away with part-time labour. I give Deputy Costello credit for feeling very keenly on that matter as I also do. I do not like to be put in the position of having to pay people less than 20/- a week. The fact is that, as far as I know, no Post Office service in the world has been able to eliminate this part-time employment. One would think that in the City of London it would be possible to do away with it, but even there it has not been found possible. Deputy Norton knows quite well that if he were Minister for Posts and Telegraphs he could not do away with it either. It was not done away with in England when the Labour Party was in power. Of course, I do not blame Deputy Norton or anyone in opposition for criticising us about this. I feel a bit more inclined to blame Deputy Corry.
Mr. Boland: Well, he ought to know our difficulties. I do not blame the Opposition for trying to squeeze all they can from us. Everyone is demanding better services and at the same time a reduction of postal charges. People want a daily delivery of letters no matter what the cost is. Deputy Costello objects to having any of this surplus surrendered to the Minister for Finance. I suppose if we could manage to do that, we would all  agree with him. I would remind the Deputy, however, that when the change of Government took place in 1922-23 the deficit on the three branches of the postal service was £1,180,000. The general taxpayer had to make good that deficit. In the following year, the deficit was down to £773,000, and it progressively decreased until 1931-1932 when, for the first time, we had a surplus. Since then, we have had a surplus each year on the commercial side. We get that surplus by taking credit for the work done for all the other Departments of State. I think we are entitled to do that. But, so far as the actual cash position is concerned, there is a deficit of roughly £100,000.
Mr. Boland: About that. The actual position is that there is a cash deficit of in or about £100,000, although, as I say, as a Department we are strictly correct in claiming credit for the work we do for other Departments. These are facts that have to be borne in mind. When there was a deficit up to the year 1931-1932 the taxpayer had to shoulder the burden, and now when we have a surplus on the commercial accounts I think people cannot say that we have not acted in a fairly generous way with that surplus. Last year we had only a nominal surplus of £35,000, and that was the reason why I did not hold out any hope then that we would be able to do anything in the way of giving reductions.
Mr. Boland: It was insufficient, at any rate, to enable me to express any hope that we would be able to reduce charges this year. I would not do so to-day if I did not feel quite sure that  we were in a position to do it. When I expressed the opinion last year that, as a result of our policy I thought our financial position was going to improve, I did not think then that the improvement would come about as quickly as it has come. As I remarked in my opening speech, the signs at present are that we will have a bigger surplus next year.
I would like to give some figures as to the rates of pay for some of the classes referred to by Deputy Norton. I do not claim any credit for any of the concessions that were given to postal workers. I told the Deputy on a few occasions here that I was not prepared to concede his claim. I have already indicated that as things are until the position of the ordinary outside worker is improved—that the Deputy had not got a case. Let me give some particulars. Take Post Office clerks (male) Grade A in Class I Offices. Their maximum weekly payment is £5 0s. 9d.
Mr. Boland: At any rate, that is the maximum pay of Grade A clerks. The maximum weekly payment of Grade B clerks in Class I Offices is £4 9s. 3d. Take Class II offices. The maximum weekly payment for Grade A clerks is £4 13s. 1d.; for Grade B, £4 5s. 5d.
Mr. Boland: Let Deputy Norton produce any comparable figures he likes. We have seen what he has alleged in  his statement of claim and we are quite satisfied that our rates compare favourably with them. In the case of female clerks, Grade A, as regards Class I Office, the amount is £3 11s. 4d.; Class II Office, £3 7s. 6d., and Class III Office, £3 3s. 8d. In the case of Post Office clerks, female, Grade B, the rate of pay is—Class I Office, £3 2s. 5d.; Class II Office, £2 18s. 7d., and Class III Office, £2 14s. 5d. In the case of postmen, Grade A, the pay is—Class I Office, £3 15s. 2d.; Class II Office, £3 10s. 9d., and Class III Office, £3 6s. 3d. In the case of postmen, Grade B, the rates are—Class I Office, £3 3s. 8d.; Class II Office, £2 19s. 10d.; Class III Office, £2 14s. 5d. In addition to that, they have, of course, regular employment and they have pension rights and also holidays. Although I would personally like to see them better, I am not prepared to ask the Minister for Finance or the Government to increase these rates until I see people in the country much worse off brought up to the same position.
Auxiliary postmen are paid a maximum of 13.6d. per hour in Class I Office; in Class II Office, 12.8d. per hour, and Class III Office, 1/- per hour. That is the maximum. I do not happen to have the minimum figures with me. Because I paid a tribute to the way the Post Office engineering staff did their work when the storm was on it was suggested that I was simply paying them a hollow tribute and that I did not mean it and the only way to show I meant it was to give them an increase. Let me mention that the skilled workmen, Class I, are paid at the rate of £3 17s. 9d., and skilled workmen, Class II, are paid £3 5s. 0d.; labourers are paid £2 14s. 0d. They did the extra work and they did it well. I am glad to be in a position to pay them as high a tribute as I possibly can. Whenever they worked overtime they were paid overtime rates, rates which compare well with outside rates. I am not going to let these cases go by default any more. Deputy Norton need not expect that I am going to advise any great increase until I see the general level lifted up. That is my answer to this question.
Mr. Norton: Will the Minister deny that in the case of the higher grade, the Post Office clerks, Grade A, a person cannot reach his maximum wages unless he has from 17 to 19 years' established service?
Mr. Boland: About 17 years' service —I will not deny that. I am sticking to what I said already, that the rates compare very well with what is paid outside. I want every Deputy to remember this, if he is falling for Deputy Norton's eloquence, that there is another side to the story.
Mr. McGilligan: That is too painfully obvious—it is the other side that affects most people. The Minister is making the point that he cannot do anything because the workers generally are so badly paid. The Minister ought to remember the reaction of that phrase.
Mr. Boland: I do not think so. The fact is that there were several drops in the cost-of-living figure since we came into office and it has not come up to the same level as when we took over office. But there has been an increase in the cost of living. When introducing Estimates in previous years I mentioned that the reductions were due to a drop in the cost of living.
Mr. Boland: Deputy Corish raised the question of the pay of postmen in Wexford. There is an old classification applying in which Wexford is lower than Cobh and Bray. It was established in 1908. It was established by the British Administration and it has obtained ever since. Deputy Norton referred to the cost of living in the different areas and Wexford does not happen to be in the same category as Cobh and Bray, in which the cost of living, on the report of the experts, was higher than in the Wexford area. That is the reason for it.
Deputy Rowlette has complained about the bad services since the War. That is explained by the fact that when we took over from the British the position was that there was a sum of £1,100,000 on the wrong side. This country was not able to afford such services and we cannot afford now to restore them to what they were in the War period, because we believe that would put us back in the same position. I cannot hold out any hope of a restoration to anything like what the services were in those days. Even an extra delivery in the city would cost an unreasonable amount—more than the service would be actually worth. We think the postal services, generally speaking, are fairly adequate—that is the Post Office opinion. As regards the air mail, we have to pay exactly what we charge extra on air mail correspondence. The matter is still under consideration with the British Air Office and we may have a more satisfactory arrangement shortly, but I cannot say definitely that we will.
Mr. Boland: Not yet. We may do something like that, but we have not considered it yet and I am not going to  promise it. If we are able to do it, we will. I will give no promise, but if we find it possible to do it, it will be done and that is all there will be about it. I am sorry Deputy Kelly did not tell us where the kiosk was to which he made reference.
Mr. Boland: I am not an artist and, personally, I do not see anything wrong with them at all. I think these kiosks are right enough. They are very useful and serve a good social purpose in these crowded districts when people want to call doctors and others. If I happen to be here next year, I hope to be able to report an increase in the number of kiosks. They cannot be put in the middle of the road; they have to be erected on the footpaths and the corporation always consult with us as regards where they will be erected.
Mr. Boland: So far as St. Andrew Street is concerned, the Post Office is responsible; we intend to build an office. The plans will be prepared and as soon as we get them we will proceed. Deputy Costello raised a point in regard to Dun Laoghaire. The officer appointed in that case was, in my opinion, the best possible man for that position. I would say that the Deputy apparently did not get correct information. As regards the 6d. tax on the parcels, that was a revenue tax imposed by the Deputy's own Government and I do not think he has much grievance there. If you want it off now, you evidently want us to do all the reducing.
Mr. Boland: Well, I cannot give the Deputy that information at the moment. Now, as to the night service in small towns, it is very difficult to provide that now, but we hope, if not in the near future, at any rate as soon as possible, that by using these small automatic exchanges we may be able  to provide a night service, but from what we know of the probabilities of getting traffic in most country places, it certainly would not be justifiable to keep on a staff. There might be only one or two calls in a night in such places, and in any case, as far as possible, the Civic Guards will always be glad to help people if they want to get a call through. Most of the Civic Guard barracks are connected up, and they will facilitate people in that way. There is an arrangement with the Post Office to have that done.
I could not understand Deputy MacMenamin's point at all. I remember well the debate that took place when the 6d. was put on the telegrams, and all the country Deputies were insisting that this porterage question was a very big matter, but the telegraph service was losing very heavily, and it was simply a concession to the country districts to reduce that 6d. charge by one half. I think that that will be admitted. I think I can also claim that the extension of the free radius in telephone rentals, from one mile to three miles, is a concession to the country districts also. We have already got a letter from one creamery in the country telling us that it means a difference of £20 a year in rent, and in addition will mean a farthing off for every local call. In trunk calls the local fee is dropped altogether in subscribers' trunk calls. Accordingly, I think that this concession really does benefit the country districts, and I feel sure that Deputy MacMenamin, if he thinks it over, will admit that that is a fact. That is, for the people who use telephones in the country. For instance, if a person lives three miles from the exchange, under the old arrangement he would have to pay, say, £5 for the first mile, and the standard rental of £10 for each additional mile; that is, £25. Now, if he is a private subscriber, he will only have to pay the £5, even if he is three miles from the exchange, and I think that that is a considerable concession.
Deputy Norton, of course, is still anxious about Pearse Street, and so am I. I admit that I would not like to have to work in Pearse Street myself. I have said that time and again, and  I can assure Deputy Norton that the Department is as anxious to have the matter settled as, I am sure, he is. I am afraid I was young at the time I said that we would have it finished by September. I did not say it since. However, we hope to be able to get it done as soon as possible. At any rate, the garage part of it will be proceeded with very soon, and everything that is possible to be done in the way of speeding up the work will be done. Now, with regard to the part-time labour in the towns, I think that Deputy Norton will have to admit that we have done something to try to remedy that matter. In the year, ten of these part-time posts have been abolished in Dublin and the average wages of the 35 men still on part-time work have been increased by 10/- each. I am anxious to eliminate all part-time work from towns if possible, but it is not as easy to do as Deputy Norton would lead one to believe. If you try to better the service in the towns by giving an early delivery over an extended area, it means the employment of more men, and then if you have not got the same service in the evening time, you have got to pay the men for not working. Deputy Norton knows quite well that it is not easy to solve the problem, and he also knows that we are doing our best. I do hope that by next year we will have a considerable advance in that direction. Waterford, evidently, is the hardy annual, and we will have to try to do something about it. I cannot say anything further on that matter at the moment. I do not know that I have anything more to say in connection with this Vote.
Mr. Corish: There is one point about which I should like some more information from the Minister. In dealing with the point I raised about Wexford, he said that there was a difference in classification. Of course, one knows that, but I want to know why there was a difference in classification. There was a difference of 3/- a week up to the 21st September, and now the difference is 4/- Surely the Minister will concede  that the difference of 1/- would not matter so much. Why is there this widening of the difference in classification?
Mr. Boland: Well, as I say, the claim was actually turned down. The demand was for something like £260,000. Minor adjustments were, however, considered warranted. In the case of postmen Grade B, an increase of 1/- was given at the class of office which includes Dublin, Bray and Cobh. An increase was not given in the class which includes Wexford. I did not arrange this classification. It has been there for 30 years. It might not have been a good thing, but the whole cost-of-living basis was a matter of scientific arrangement, and I, certainly, am not prepared to say that the thing is not justified. It may or it may not be justified, but I am not prepared to say whether it is or not.
Mr. Corish: I am not blaming the Minister for the difference in classification, but for the widening of the difference in classification. Why discriminate about the clerks? I think that this is a matter for special consideration, and that there should not have been a widening in the difference of classification. I think that the Minister ought to consider the question of the 1/- and that he could still keep the difference of classification. Would the Minister undertake to reconsider the matter?
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