Friday, September 23, 2016

Letter Carriers' Grievances - 1885

Telegraph (Brisbane), Monday 14 December 1885, page 2

Letter Carriers' Grievances

The following is a copy of a petition presented to the Superintendent of Mails on Friday last: — 'B. T. Scott, Esquire.— Respected Sir,— We, the undersigned letter-carriers of the city and suburbs of Brisbane, beg most respectfully to draw your attention, and through you the attention of the Postmaster- General, to the grievances under which we labour, with a view to their removal.

We would especially direct your attention to the long hours which we are obliged to work — namely, from 7 a.m. until 5 and 6 p.m. every day, and occasionally even later than that. And we regret to say that while working those late hours we are sometimes denied a reasonable time for refreshments, which the following will show. On September 7 and 17, it was 8 and 7 p.m. when we ceased work, and we were deprived by order of Mr. Wright of any food from midday until we left the office, and considering the long distances many of us have to go before reaching our homes, the injustice of such on order must be apparent. Again, on October 1, 2, 12, 19, 20, and 29 it was 10, 7.46, 9.30, 8.46, 6.45, and 11.30 p.m. respectively when we ceased work, while on the latter date it was midnight before the last of us left the office, and on the two former of those dates we were only allowed twenty and twenty five minutes at 6 p.m. for refreshments, a time altogether inadequate to go from the office and partake of food and return. Besides, it was equally as late before we stopped work on several occasions during the month of November, but notably on two, viz., on Sunday, 22nd, being engaged from 3 to 11 p.m, and on the 27th it was 12 p.m., and that, too, on the latter day, without receiving any extra pay, and to still further aggravate those evils of which we so justly complain, we wore on the 30th ordered back to the office at 7.15 p.m. to put in our letters for the next day, without any valid reason being assigned for such, to our minds, an unnecessary and unjust proceeding. Such long hours of labour and such scant time being allowed for meals, is contrary to the spirit of the present age, and utterly at variance with the recognised principle of the eight hours' system of Queensland. We would therefore respectfully urge that in future our working hours be reduced to eight per day— namely, from 7 a.m. until 4 p.m., with one hour (where practicable) from 12 to 1 o'clock, for dinner.

We would further point out the injustice of the system which prevails at present, of our being compelled to wait on the various mail-boats, after doing our two, and in some cases three, heavy deliveries during the day; sort all newspapers, packets, &c, from the same, besides having to empty the town letter box, stamp all letters deposited therein, and keep a daily record and make a monthly return of the same, in addition to our other duties, namely, cross sort those newspapers and packets, besides the placing of those papers, as well as our letters, for careful distribution, which is sometimes more than sufficient for us to do with justice to ourselves, and to give satisfaction to the public and also the department.

We would, therefore, strongly urge the necessity of being relieved of those extra duties which do not properly belong to us, and if they did are really more than we are able to do.

We would also point out that in consequence of the large number of houses which are being erected, and the rapid increase of population, the runs are much too large to be worked with the present number of hands, therefore the necessity of a revision of the various runs, and an increase of hands, so as to make the work a little less laborious must be obvious, and will, we hope, receive early attention. The present system, or rather the want of system, which now obtains of our having to- initial up letters, and wait on mail in the mornings, especially the mail from South Brisbane, which usually arrives about 8.30 a.m. (and which often contains hundreds of letters, circulars, &o.. from auctioneers, building societies, and other public bodies), the time when we are supposed to leave the office, for our first deliveries, is extremely inconvenient and objectionable, and should be so altered as to afford us sufficient time previous to that hour to have our letters and papers properly sorted before leaving, thus enabling us to reach the public in a reasonable time, whereas now we are unable to do so with any degree of comfort, for the reasons stated above, and being thus detained through no fault of our own, we are often most unreasonably, and also in the most disagreeable manner, remonstrated with for being late.

We would venture to hope that some remedy may be speedily applied to put an end to this state of things, which leads to a good deal of friction and unpleasantness, which should not exist in any department of the State.

Moreover, the present practice of shifting us from run to run, and not infrequently when we have our letters, &o:, sorted, and are just on the point of departure from the office to commence our deliveries, is exceedingly disagreeable to us and very inconvenient to the public; because, we contend that to send us to deliver letters into strange districts with which we are unacquainted; and where the houses are not numbered; (especially on English mail days), is not only manifestly unfair, not to say unjust to us, but it is a source of great inconvenience and annoyance to the public in those districts. We trust, therefore, that some change will shortly be made in this direction.

We would also venture to suggest that the Government be urged (if such be required) to pass a law compelling owners of properties to have their houses and vacant allotments duly numbered, so as to prevent mistakes being made in the delivery of letters.

We would further request that in future when new hands are being engaged, and when we are removed to strange runs, that they, or we, be accompanied for a abort time at first by some person acquainted with the districts in which we are to be employed.

The light of the room in which we have to do our sorting is very defective, and many' mistakes occur by the misplacing of letters in consequence, besides it is very injurious to the eyesight. We trust that steps will be speedily taken to remedy this, defect.

We would further request that on national holidays we be allowed the whole of the day instead of the half day which we have at present, a privilege which is enjoyed by most of the Civil Servants, and by almost all other classes of the community- ; besides, if this concession were made to us, it would be very little inconvenience the public, especially those in business, most of whom live off the premises in any case, while many of the others are seldom at home during those days, therefore numbers of the letters which are taken out for delivery on those days are returned to the office undelivered. Thus unnecessary, and in some cases double duties are imposed on us without conferring any corresponding advantage on the public.

We desire to state that the present mode of dealing with reports which are made by respecting the delay and misdelivery of letters and other alleged irregularities on our part, is both clumsy and very unsatisfactory If, instead of receiving such reports (many of which being made more through pique than anything else) with such readiness and credulity, and also in our absence, and we having to answer them in writing, wo were allowed to see and converse with the complainant themselves, before such reports were acted upon, we would in most cases be able to give such explanations as would satisfy all parties concerned, we would thus be saved much labour and annoyance., besides a little cash which we sometimes have to pay in the shape of fine.

In conclusion we have to express our regret at having to address you at such length (or indeed at all) on such matters as are here submitted for your consideration, but our position is such, both from being overworked, and while endeavouring to discharge our multifarious duties to the best of our ability, we are so inconsiderately treated, that unless we had lost all sense of self -respect and manhood we have no other option but to bring the matter under your notice and in such a form as will convince you of the genuineness of  our complaints, and the necessity of  the changes which we are seeking.

Awaiting your early and we trust favourable reply, we are respected sirs yours etc the undersigned.

Here follow the signatures.


Telegraph (Brisbane), Thursday 17 December 1885, page 2

The Letter Carriers' Petition

To the Editor. — Sir,— I was not surprised at the letter carriers' petition to the manager of the mail branch. I consider it is quite time the Brisbane Post Office officials were put under the management of a thoroughly competent official from the old country (the same as the Railway Department was and is under Mr. Thallon, traffic manager), then the first, second, and third deliveries would be despatched from the General Post Office in something like reasonable time. The first delivery of letters, etc., by the letter carriers should be over by 9 a.m., the second at 11.30 a.m., and the third at 2. 00 p.m. Instead of that we see the letter carriers leaving the Post Office to commence their several deliveries of letters at the very time they should have completed them. With regard to the letter carriers having to sort and assist at making up the mails, in no post office in England is that allowed. It is contrary to all post office routine and common sense. In the old country the Senior letter carriers sort the letters for the town delivery after they have been through the hands of the sorting clerks, for which they receive extra pay. After the senior letter carriers have divided the letters, etc., into the various rounds then each man has only to make up the letters for his own delivery. By such an arrangement as this business is facilitated, and the letters, etc., are in the possession of the public in a shorter space of time. The letter carriers having stated their grievances, it now remains for the public to back them up, and insist on the much-needed reforms being carried out, if it amounts to the instant dismissal of the incompetent officials that now impede rather than accelerate business. — Yours, etc.

Late Post Office Bristol. Brunswick Street, Valley.


Telegraph (Brisbane), Friday 10 August 1883, page 3


To the Editor. — Sir,— Permit me to address a few remarks through your valuable columns concerning the delivery of letters in general. Owing to the free postage of newspapers, &c, the circulation of printed matter has increased so enormously that letters are delayed in consequence. The letter carrier must find it impossible to carry a large pack of papers, parcels of books, magazines, &c, and attend faithfully to the delivery of letters, which is the most important and responsible of his duties. Of all Government employees none occupy a more responsible position than the individual to whom the delivery of letters is entrusted, yet few are hampered so much. No Government subordinate should be more respected and better paid than that of a latter deliverer, and the head officials should so deal with the letter deliverers as to impress upon them daily the importance and sacredness of their daily duties. What serious interests are often at stake and depend upon a single letter? What anxieties await daily to be relieved by a single letter, the loss of which, or the delay, may occasion intense sufferings, and perhaps, the most serious consequences. Hence the letter carrier's duty is not only a most responsible and serious one, but one of benevolence also, and he should be so dealt with as to feel that he is not only doing duty in his daily round, but that he is on a message of mercy also. If he is duly impressed with a sense of the importance and sacredness of his office, he will be stimulated to a faithful discharge of his duty; and his labours will be lightened, or the more pleasant, as he feels that he is not merely a machine, but that his position affords latitude for benevolence, enabling him by faithfulness to be a messenger of mercy also. Instead of this being the case, what do we find? The poor letter deliverer is made to carry heaps of rubbish in one hand with the most important messages in the other. He is made a mere beast of burden to carry the most frivolous and ridiculous parcels, such as quack doctors' sheets, stump orators, political notices, speculators' specimens of some new Punch, Figaro, or foolery, with other heaps of useless lumber too numerous to mention. The consequence is respect for the sacredness of his duties is destroyed, and, finding it impossible to attend to both duties, he is compelled to sacrifice one to the other, or neglect both. A reflective mind cannot meet a postman, however humble, without felling respect, if not a reverence, for the man, owing to the peculiar duties in connection with him. But this must soon give way if the man is to become a mere news vendor, carrying in one hand contemptible buffooneries which are placed on a level with the most sacred documents he holds in the other. A letter carrier has no more, or rather he ought to have, no more to do with parcels than a physician has to do with driving a night cart, because he understands the sanitary laws and chemical principles better than the humble individuals who are engaged in such work. If a physician were compelled to unite the one with his profession, he would not be long before he renounced both. Parcels have no more to do with letters than a night dray has to do with a physician's practice. One or two new hands have lately been obliged to give up their position, they had been employed in London as letter deliverers but finding that here they were merely beasts of burden they gave up, as it was impossible to do both duties faithfully. What is the remedy for this? Do as they do in London, let the letter deliverer attend to his duty, and never touch a parcel, excepting deeds, wills, documents, etc., which, owing to their importance belong to the letter delivery. But newspapers, printed bills, and parcels, books, magazines, and all such like lumber, let there be men especially set apart for such work, and have a spring cart or a pack horse for such purposes. Until this be the case our letters must of necessity be delayed — Yours, &c,

Mr. Observer. Brisbane, August 9.