To the Editor.
Sir,—In your issue of 10th inst., appears the report of a meeting of the Pastures Protection Board and I would crave space to reply to certain criticism directed against the newly formed Institute of Stock Inspectors and P. P. Board Officials of N.S.W.
Mr Sullivan is credited with saying—"Instead of taking the usual steps to form a union they have formed an Institute. They called it an Institute, but in reality it meant a union. He did not object to the Inspectors forming a union, but he did object to them calling it an Institute. Lectures were only a cloak at a Conference like that. He maintained that the Institute was formed for the purpose of getting higher salaries for the officials. The Government did not contribute a penny towards their salaries. The stock owners had to pay the salaries, and it should come from the Board who was to manage its affairs."
I would like to point out that the Institute (which is composed of stock Inspectors, secretaries and rabbit Inspectors) sets out to accomplish two main objects:
1. By Conferences, discussions and dissemination of papers to assist the members in keeping in touch with modern and up-to-date methods so that generally speaking they may render more effective service.
2. To secure for its members reasonable conditions of employment.
Mr. Sullivan in effect says that it does not stand to reason a body can have two objects like that. You cannot try to make yourself a better tradesman and at the same time try to get better pay. It's not feasible. If you ask for more pay that is a proof you cannot be endeavoring to turn out your best work, and render better service. Surely this is a curious attitude to adopt, and I beg to sbmit it is an entirely mistaken one.
For many years I have occupied the position of secretary to the Association of Local Government Clerks and I organised the first Conference of that body in 1910. Since then the Conference has been an Annual function and it has the hearty support of the Government and every Shire and Municipal Council in the State. We have been able to make recommendations to the Department on many matters effecting local Government which have been adopted in Ordinances and Regulations, and some are in the new Local Government Bill.
And yet when our members meet each year it invariably happens that some discussion takes place on matters effecting the members personal welfare and some have even the temerity to mention the matter of better salaries. And no Council has risen up in wrath to tell us we are hypocrites to call ourselves an Association when in the blackness of our hearts we are "a Union." Nor do they accuse us of usurping the functions of Councils. Yet it has been impressed upon me that I would find the members of P.P. Boards much more broad minded men than Aldermen or Shire Councillors.
If Mr. Sullivan's grievance is that the Institute approached the Minister on the salaries question instead of the Boards, then apparently that gentleman is ignorant of the provisions of the Act he is helping to administer.
Section 13 of the Pastures Protection Act says inter alia: "The Governor may appoint Inspectors for one or more districts. Such Inspectors shall be under the control of the Minister and shall be paid such salaries as he may from time to time determine."
It is very clear, therefore, that the appointment of the Inspector and the fixing of his salary is entirely in the hands of the Minister. The secretary on the other hand vide Section 15 is appointed by the Board and the Board fixes his salary subject only to the approval of the Minister. As Mr. Wallace interjected at the meeting; "The Institute leaves the secretary to the mercy of the Board." Quite right and when the Institute moves in matter of salaries for the secretaries it will go to the right people as laid down in the Act, viz., the P.P. Boards.
I trust, therefore, the action of the Institute in this matter is now quite clear. With regard to the justice of the claim on behalf of Inspectors, I would like to point out that when a Board recommends an Inspector's salary to be increased such recommendation has been adopted, but if such recommendation is not made the Minister seemingly has slept on his prerogative. It was a great surprise to him consequently to learn that some Inspectors are receiving the same salaries as they were paid ten and even twenty years ago. During this period the cost of living had advanced quite fifty per cent and it is safe to say there is no other body of employees in the State who have remained passive under such conditions.
If he is an employer of labor I would like to ask Mr. Sullivan how do the wages he pays now, compare with what he paid ten years ago? And yet if he makes enquiries he will find not far away an Inspector on the same salary he was receiving about ten years ago.
Again under present conditions an Inspector has to pay all his own travelling expenses and is placed in a peculiar position that the more energetic he is in the pursuit of his duties the poorer he will be at the end of the year. Such conditions are not permitted in any other branch of the Government service. All other officials such as Dairy Inspectors and conditional purchase Inspectors get definite equipment and travelling allowances so that a man can carry out his duties without feeling he is improverising himself and reducing his meagre salary below a living allowance.
In conclusion I would like to say that I believe it was the truth when I was informed that the members of P.P. Boards were liberal minded reasonable men and I am confident the work of the Institute is going to merit their support. We have not formed a union because we believe we can have any grievances adjusted by less aggressive means. We have not asked the Minister to take any high handed action even on the matter of salaries and equipment allowances. Due enquiry will be made, and I believe the Boards will shortly have an opportunity of expressing their views upon the matter.
I am, etc.,
E. C. BLUETT
Institute of Stock Inspectors and Pastures Protection Board Officials of New South Wales.