§ MR. M'CARTAN
I beg to ask the Postmaster General whether he will state the number of hours overtime performed by telegraph operatives in the Central Telegraph Office during the week ending 7th June instant; also, how many hours overtime performed at the same office during the first week of June, 1889; whether clerks there have been threatened with penal consequences for refusing to work overtime from 12 noon, although their duties were from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.; whether, notwithstanding that every available officer was pressed on overtime duty, telegrams are often delayed for nearly an hour owing to the insufficient staff; and whether, having regard to this delay, and to the exceptional strain which long hours entails on the clerks, he will consider the desirability of increasing the staff at the Central Telegraph Office?
§ THE POSTMASTER GENERAL (Mr. RAIKES,) Cambridge University
The number of hours overtime performed in the Central Telegraph Office during the week ended the 7th instant was 10,260, and during the corresponding week of last year 10,037. The work in this week is exceptionally heavy, and the amount of overtime is, therefore, correspondingly high. It is spread over a force of about 2,400 persons. In one or two instances telegraphists who have demurred to render assistance in times of extreme pressure have been informed that it would be necessary to consider the question of removing them from the duty extending from 5 p.m. to 2 a.m. to make way for those upon whose help the Department might rely, and it is, perhaps, to this that the hon. Member refers as being a threat of penal consequences. I may mention that the duty in question is only performed five days a week. It is not the fact that telegrams are often delayed to the extent mentioned by the hon. Member. Some delay has, however, occurred on a few of the circuits, owing to the extreme pressure, and, in view of 718 the amount of overtime performed, it has been in contemplation to make an early application for authority to increase the staff.