Mr. T. F. RICHARDS
asked the Postmaster-General whether he is aware that there are 11 mail-drivers in Belfast employed as follows: Two who work 93 hours each for 21s. 6d., four who work 86, 84½, 84, and 79¾ hours for 21s. 6d., four others who work 86½, 76½, 61½, and 57 hours each for 20s., and one man who works 49 hours for 12s.; whether he is aware that the uniform of these men consists of coat, vest, and cap only, whereas the ordinary postmen receive two full suits, including overcoat, waterproof cape, and boots, per year; whether he is aware that the recent inquiry held in Belfast respecting this matter consisted of calling in the contractor's foreman and accepting his statement, without in any way approaching the persons employed; and whether, in view of the statement that the hours worked by mail-cart drivers in Belfast were 60 per week for 21s. 6d., with uniform, he will take the necessary steps to enforce the hours and wages as aforesaid, with the addition to the uniform of trousers, boots, overcoat, and waterproof cape?
§ Mr. BUXTON
I have made further inquiry into the conditions of employment of the Belfast mail-cart drivers. I am informed that the average duration of the duties of the 11 full-time drivers is about 65 hours a week. I find that the duty of one of the drivers—73 hours—is excessive, and I am calling upon the contractor to reduce it at once. As regards the payment, the wages, I am assured, after the first six months, are 21s. 6d., together with the 2136 ordinary uniform, valued at 1s. a week. I have, however, requested the Board of Trade to ascertain the current wages and hours of duty of van-drivers at Belfast; and, on receipt of this information, I shall be able to determine whether any further alteration in the conditions of employment of the mail-cart drivers is necessary.
Has the right hon. Gentleman taken into consideration that portion of the question with regard to the uniform and the answer given in this House some months ago, and may I ask the right hon. Gentleman of what the uniform consists?
§ Mr. BUXTON
The uniform as a rule consists of a coat, hat, and sometimes trousers; but the value of the uniform is a point I want to consider when I get the information from the Board of Trade. I shall then be able to see whether the contractor has made a proper estimate.
Has the right hon. Gentleman ever considered the advisability of doing this work without the intervention of contractors?
§ Mr. BUXTON
That is a question that hardly arises. It is a much bigger question than the one on the Paper.