Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Telephone and Postal Services.

61.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware of the non-delivery of letters which are posted in Baggot Street Post Office and in the Rathmines area and of the extremely slow delivery of letters in the Pearse Street area of Dublin; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

As regards the reference to non-delivery of letters, occasional complaints of non-delivery are received, and these are investigated as thoroughly as possible. I am not, however, aware of any special difficulties of this kind in the case of postings in either of the Baggot Street Post Offices or in the Rathmines area. If the Deputy will let me have particulars of any cases he may have in mind, I shall be glad to have them investigated.

As regards slow delivery in the Pearse Street area, there was delay in delivery of some letter mail during March and early April because of very heavy postings, which would have affected the area, but the position has improved.

62.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if, in view of the facts of a case (details supplied) in County Dublin, he will make arrangements to provide a telephone in the near future.

It is expected that service will be provided for this applicant within the next three months or so.

63.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware of the plight of subpostmasters and mistresses who operate switchboards and who work about 90 hours per week and provide free accommodation to his Department and that they are paid only on returns of piece-work; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

64.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs the allowance paid to sub-postmasters for the use of their premises; when it was adjusted last; and if he has received representations from the sub-postmasters association seeking an increase.

65.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he has received complaints from sub-postmasters and sub-postmistresses about the fact that they (a) have no pension entitlement; (b) must provide premises without specific remuneration for the premises provided; (c) are paid on the basis of the number of transactions rather than on the amount of time that they must be available for work; and (d) have exceptionally long working hours; and if he has any proposals to improve their situation.

66.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he has received complaints from the sub-postmasters union regarding their conditions of employment and remuneration; if he has any plans to grant an increase in their allowances; and, if so, when.

67.

asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he has received representations from the sub-postmasters union regarding their remuneration and conditions of employment; if so, whether he proposes to take any action on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the situation.

68.

(Cavan-Monaghan) asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs if he is aware that sub-postmasters appear to be very inadequately remunerated for their services and office accommodation; if he is further aware that they are very dissatisfied with their conditions; if he will revise the present scales of remuneration for this group of public servants; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I propose to take Questions Nos. 63 to 68, inclusive, together.

Under their terms of appointment, postmasters contract to provide certain services as well as the necessary accommodation and other facilities. They are not required to give active personal service, but are paid an inclusive sum, related to volume of business and range of services, to provide for all expenses.

The rates of remuneration and other conditions under which postmasters hold appointments have been settled on the basis of agreements negotiated with the Irish Postmasters' Union under the agreed scheme of conciliation and arbitration. The general rates of remuneration were last adjusted with effect from 1 March, 1980 following agreement on a union claim.

The Irish Postmasters' Union has recently submitted claims embracing the particular matters referred to by the Deputies and other matters. Representations have also been received in support of these claims. The issues concerned are the subject of current negotiations at the conciliation council. The proceedings of the council are confidential and it would be inappropriate to comment on the position regarding these negotiations.

What does the Minister mean by the statement that sub-postmasters are not required, within the terms of their contract, to provide active personal service?

They have the responsibility for the post offices and for accountability for them but they do not have to give personal service. In other words, they can hire people to do the work involved.

Would the Minister not agree that it is the responsibility of these people to ensure that active personal service is provided and that, therefore, his statement is misleading?

It is not intended to be misleading. Sub-post offices vary in size from very large to very small, depending on the district concerned. In the very large ones there is sometimes the situation in which those who are the sub-postmasters may not be actually working on the premises. However, they are responsible for every function of these sub-post offices. If anything were found wrong an office could be closed on that account but they do not have to give personal active service.

Is the Minister satisfied that there is not inequity as between sub-postmasters who transact a lot of business and those who transact very little in that they are both paid on a lump sum basis without regard to the actual work input achieved?

Not really. Since the foundation of the State we have had various forms of discussions, both at conciliation and arbitration and otherwise, as to the best method of payment for postmasters. Many methods of payment have been tried out and public, private and individual investigations have continued but at the end of the day, and as recently as this year, it has been found that the best mode of remuneration for these people is the one that is in operation. Admittedly, the remuneration of those in the smaller sub-post offices — and there are very few of those — is not great. Presently we are in conciliation and arbitration on the matter and I cannot, therefore, discuss publicly the situation other than to hint that the point being raised relates to something that we would like to see being done.

Can we expect that to be more than a hint within the next few weeks?

Given that the number of transactions is not used as a basis for distinguishing the direct remuneration of one postmaster as against another, what basis is used to distinguish the level of remuneration between a busy and a not-so-busy post office?

It is a paper item.

The remaining questions will appear on the Order Paper for Tuesday next.