§ MR. W. T. WILSON (Lancashire, Westhoughton)
To ask the Postmaster-General whether, in view of his declarations that he desired that the Post Office should be a good employer of labour, he will state whether it is his intention to employ soldiers serving with the colours to perform telegraphic duties in postal telegraph offices during the current year at wages much below those paid to established telegraphists; and whether such a system was introduced on the proposal of an official of his Department, on the ground that it was cheaper than employing ordinary telegraphists.
(Answered by Mr. Sydney Buxton.) As my hon. friend is aware, there is, unfortunately, at certain times of the year, exceptional pressure on telegraph work. In order to meet the exceptional pressure, to avoid excessive overtime, to which. I am opposed, and to enable the established telegraph staff to obtain their holidays in better months of the year, it is necessary to obtain season assistants for telegraph work for part of the year, and at various places. Efficient season assistants are not easy to obtain, and the primary object which I have had in view in employing a certain number of soldiers to perform telegraphic duties as season assistants is to meet this exceptional pressure. One additional advantage of employing the soldiers is that they acquire a useful knowledge of telegraphy. The system was not introduced on the ground that it was cheaper than employing ordinary 1510 telegraphists. The officers in question are not employed in lieu of established officers, and do not receive less than the ordinary season assistants.