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Typo: A Monthly Newspaper and Literary Review, Volume 3

Wellington, 25 October, 1889

Wellington, 25 October, 1889.

During the month past since writing you, nothing startling has taken place in matters typographical—unless I take into account Bland Holt's posters illustrative of his sensational plays, which posters are really excellent specimens of show-bills. Our jobbing offices keep up the even tenor of their way. Edwards & Co. have lost the « Law Reports, » which have been printed by them for seven years, but are now being printed in the Government Printing Office. Since he has moved into the new office the Government Printer has secured a lot of work which he was unable to do in the smaller premises, and of course so much more work he secures, the less is there for private offices to do, as Messrs Whitcombe, Tombs & Co., of Christchurch, and other offices find with regard to railway work, Messrs Lyon & Blair, and Edwards & Co. with regard to « Transactions » and « Law. » It is my opinion that in some of the offices affected there were more journeymen employed when they had these different jobs than the Government Printer has employed since he has taken them up. Let me enlarge. In my last letter I informed you that twenty-four hands had been discharged from the piece-room. Since then the remaining men in the room have received notice that they will not be needed after the 26th inst. (to-morrow). This closes the piece-room up altogether, an occurrence which has not taken place for many years past. On Tuesday last seven of the time-hands received a fortnight's notice. Among the men thus thrown out of work are some who have worked in the office for six and eight years—and this is a Government office, while work is crowding in. It is natural that these men should grumble, but I had also poured into my ear a tale of complaint from the fortunate (?) time-hands. When these mortals heard that the piece-room was to be closed they (that is to say, the casuals) shook hands with themselves, in anticipation that this event would make their places the more secure, as there seemed to be every token of a busy recess. Now it might be interesting to many New Zealanders to know the system—oh, I must withdraw this word, as there is no system—which prevails in the office to which many of our Colony's apprentices turn their thoughts as the end of their term draws near. I am treading now upon tabooed ground, for of all the departments of our civil service the Government Printing Office is least criticised—and it needs criticism as much as any part of our public service, and deserves castigation also. As an instance, Typo was the only journal in which I saw an attempt made at a description of the new buildings—and anyone who is on speaking terms with men who work day after day in the building knows that those men grumble a great deal about the light and other essentials of a printing-office. When a compositor is taken on at the Government Printing Office, which may be at any time within a month of the opening of Parliament, he is put into the piece-room. Now it follows that if men are put into this room for the session, they are casuals who do not expect to remain longer than Parliament lasts. It often happens that the staff in the time-room has to be increased. If there are many men (and there always are a few), who are making good « docs, » then they are placed in the time-room, which means less wages. In the Sydney Government Printing Office, when a man is thus taken out of the piece- and then put into the time-room, he is placed on something like a permanent footing—a man thus moved would get £3 5s per week for the first year, and next year he would get £3 10s per week, and every year after that, if he proves his competence, he receives a rise, until he even gets as high as £5 per week, which is the remuneration of the confidential staff. The time-hand in the N.S.W. Government Printing Office considers his place a permanency. Compare the Government Printing Office in this city. The man who has been selected out of the piece-room and placed in the time-room is on no better footing than he was before being removed—in fact, I have known time-hands discharged before the others, and with less notice than has been given to those on piece. There are not more than twelve permanent hands on the composing staff of our Government Printing Office, and these men, some of whom have been in the service for at least fifteen years, have no more consideration shown them than the man who has only been a year in the service. Beyond their permanency, they are no better treated than those of two years' standing, for they are both alike entitled to the privilege of a week's holiday on full pay—and the permanent hand is not classed in the civil service, although the office is under the control of the service, being in the Colonial Secretary's Department. The permanent staff ten years ago was larger than it is to-day, although work has increased so greatly. Only seven of the permanent comps work at case. This number of permanents is altogether inadequate for such an office. What is wanted in the Government Printing Office of N.Z. is a system, so that men who have served in the office for several years should look upon themselves as being settled, instead of, as is at present the case, being in constant dread of having to break up their homes. Men who have been in the service of the Government Printer for as long as ten years are classed as casuals, and should influence be brought to bear, as has been the case, a man of a year's standing may be appointed permanently above their heads. Position in our Government Printing Office does not go by merit, but influence is the lever, and the sooner such a system as that applied in the N.S.W. service is adopted in our own service the better will be the standing there, and it will put a stop to the strong feeling which exists, which, if not soon abated will find some outside force to cause the necessary reform. It has been thought that a word in Typo to the wise may be be sufficient, so I have put these words together on behalf of the grumblers.