Labour Day 2017

Today is New Zealand’s Labour Day. It was a major event when it was first commemorated the eight-hour working day in the 1890s, but now to most people it is just a long weekend, for those who don’t have to work.

Perhaps ironically the MPs of the Labour Party are probably working overtime preparing for taking over the running of government.

The lives of Jacinda Ardern especially, her staff, and incoming ministers, will be transformed markedly to a job of long hours each day, double the eight hour day won’t be uncommon, and 6-7 day weeks. But they aren’t ordinary working people who the eight hour day was aimed at.

From NZ History:  Fighting for the eight-hour working day

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.

The date, 28 October, marked the first anniversary of the establishment of the Maritime Council, an organisation of transport and mining unions. The fledgling union movement was decimated by defeat in a trans-Tasman Maritime Strike in late 1890 but, despite this, the first Labour Day was a huge success. In Wellington, the highlight was an appearance by the elderly Parnell, who died just a few weeks later.

From the mid-1890s the union movement began to recover slowly under the Liberal government. The Liberals’ industrial conciliation and arbitration system, introduced in 1894, earned New Zealand a reputation of being a ‘working man’s paradise’ and a ‘country without strikes’.

Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events.

The huge crowds this Labour day are likely to be flocking to the malls on the first sales since last week. We have transformed into a consumerist society.

These parades also had a political purpose. Although workers in some industries had long enjoyed an eight-hour day, it was not a legal entitlement. Other workers, including seamen, farm labourers, and hotel, restaurant and shop employees, still worked much longer hours. Many also endured unpleasant and sometimes dangerous working conditions. Unionists wanted the Liberals to pass legislation enforcing an eight-hour day for all workers, but the government was reluctant to antagonise the business community.

What the Liberals did do was make Labour Day a holiday. The Labour Day Act of 1899 created a statutory public holiday on the second Wednesday in October, first celebrated in 1900. The holiday was ‘Mondayised’ in 1910, and since then it has been held on the fourth Monday in October.

In the first decade of the 20th century industrial unrest reappeared. The Liberal government was in decline, prices were rising and the Arbitration Court was seen as reluctant to raise wages. The more militant labour movement that emerged from around 1908 rejected the Liberals’ arbitration system and condemned the increasing commercialisation of Labour Day parades. Many floats advertised businesses as well as temperance organisations, theatres, circuses and patriotic causes.

Some socialists promoted May Day (1 May) as an alternative celebration of workers’ struggles. Although unionists and their supporters continued to hold popular gatherings and sports events, by the 1920s Labour Day had begun to decline as a public spectacle. For most New Zealanders, it was now just another holiday.

I grew up having no idea what Labour Day was about, apart from a long weekend off school, and later off work. I expect there are many who little or nothing about it’s history.

 

Labour Day 2016

Today is Labour Day. It is a public holiday, which means it’s a day off work for those who don’t work in essential services and in the many other occupations that may work any day of the week throughout nearly all of the year.

The nature of work has changed substantially since the late 1800s. Labouring is a minority occupation these days.

From NZ History:

Fighting for the eight-hour working day

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.

The date, 28 October, marked the first anniversary of the establishment of the Maritime Council, an organisation of transport and mining unions. The fledgling union movement was decimated by defeat in a trans-Tasman Maritime Strike in late 1890 but, despite this, the first Labour Day was a huge success. In Wellington, the highlight was an appearance by the elderly Parnell, who died just a few weeks later. From the mid-1890s the union movement began to recover slowly under the Liberal government. The Liberals’ industrial conciliation and arbitration system, introduced in 1894, earned New Zealand a reputation of being a ‘working man’s paradise’ and a ‘country without strikes’.

Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events.

These parades also had a political purpose. Although workers in some industries had long enjoyed an eight-hour day, it was not a legal entitlement. Other workers, including seamen, farm labourers, and hotel, restaurant and shop employees, still worked much longer hours. Many also endured unpleasant and sometimes dangerous working conditions. Unionists wanted the Liberals to pass legislation enforcing an eight-hour day for all workers, but the government was reluctant to antagonise the business community.

What the Liberals did do was make Labour Day a holiday. The Labour Day Act of 1899 created a statutory public holiday on the second Wednesday in October, first celebrated in 1900. The holiday was ‘Mondayised’ in 1910, and since then it has been held on the fourth Monday in October.

Today most New Zealanders probably think or care little about what Labour Day means. When I was growing up, and since, it has meant little other than being a long weekend.

It was much more important a century and more ago, as were unions. Now most people don’t see a need to belong to a union.

Going back to the beginning: EVENING POST, VOLUME XL, ISSUE 103, 29 OCTOBER 1890

demonstrationday1890-1

DemonstrationDay1890-2.jpg

There will be few parades today, except for parades of shoppers seeking this week’s sales, which are probably much like last week’s sales and the myriad of retail sales throughout the year, especially on long weekends.

And there will be parades of cars on the roads as people return home to the cities from a holiday weekend.

 

Labour Day

Today is Labour Day, although to many people it is just a day off giving them a long weekend, and to quite a few others it’s a busy working day as businesses milk the weekend shoppers as much as they can.

NZ History has some history on Labour Day:

Fighting for the eight-hour working day

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenterSamuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.

Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events.

We are more likely to see streams of people heading to the shops today.

Currently there is no sign of the Labour Party acknowledging Labour Day on their website – the last news posts there are dated 24 October.

The PSA marks the occasion on Twitter:

We hope you all have a great Labour Day on Monday, a day off thanks to workers and our unions!

Labour on Twitter tells me:

You are blocked from following @nzlabour and viewing @nzlabour’s Tweets

I must be seen as a danger to their surge in popularity.

Which is lame because I can check their Twitter anyway, which shows no Tweets since retweeting Andrew Little congratulating the All Blacks and reporting from his trip to China.

The latest Labour Party post on their Facebook page is also All Blacks. They may not get a day off today, they should be training in preparation for the Rugby World Cup final against Australia..

A Labour Day wish list

Clemgeopin has posted a “Thoughts for Labour Day” wish list at The Standard and also at Kiwiblog.

Thoughts for the Labour day:

8 hours for Work
8 hours for sleep
8 hours for self/family/friends.

Now, that is fair, healthy and makes one’s short life on Earth worth it.

I also think

* That the lunch break of half an hour should be a paid break.
* Travel time to and from work should have a payment for at least half an hour.
* All workers should have a certain share/bonus in the profits over and above their normal pay.
* Business that work more than 8 hours or 24/7, must have different shifts, employ more people and have restricted overtime safeguards.
* Employers that say they can not manage, should leave, start a different business or become employees. The vacuum will soon get filled by other employers that can.

* Uncontrolled free market fueled with unfairness and greed is the biggest real problem of this modern world in which the income and wealth gaps are fast increasing. That needs to change urgently with fair but strict controls enforced.

The government, the employers, and all of us should realise that
* We work to live and not live to work.
* We are all fellow humans and should look after each other better.

I don’t think everything you want should be imposed on all employers. There are many variables in employment and business situations.

I don’t think eight hours work a day with a five day suits all occupations. My official hours are actually seven and a half hours a day. My daughter often works twelve hour shifts but gets more days off per week on average, she’s a nurse. I’d quite like that work structure but it doesn’t suit my occupation, I need to be available as much as possible when our clients want us, which is traditional work hours.

The best way for workers to dictate optimal conditions, especially profit sharing, is to set up their own businesses (many try this) or co-operatives.

Success wouldn’t be guaranteed, but that’s how it is for every employer, which is a major reason why many people choose to remain employees.

Labour Day

Today is Labour Day, a day off for Monday-Friday workers, but not for many who work in police, health, retail and hospitality (and other industries).

I’ve only every had a vague notion  of what the history of our Labour Day was. It’s been more notable as a time to get your vege garden sorted and planted, and for some it was an opportunity to take their caravan to their camping ground of choice in preparation for summer holidays.

NZ History looks back:

Fighting for the eight-hour working day

Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenterSamuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.

The date, 28 October, marked the first anniversary of the establishment of the Maritime Council, an organisation of transport and mining unions.

The Standard has significant union connections…

Why “The Standard”?

The Standard newspaper – from where our masthead comes – was founded by labour movement activists in the 1930s.

What’s your political ‘angle’?

We come from a variety of backgrounds and our political views don’t always match up but it’d be fair to say that all of us share a commitment to the values and principles that underpin the broad labour movement and we hope that perspective will come through strongly as you read the blog.

…so it’s not a surprise that they have some Labour Day related posts.

Auckland Labour Day Event

Written By:

labour dayThe Mangere Labour Electorate Committee is planning an interesting event on Labour Day in Auckland to commemorate the contributions of three different people to the Labour movement.

Have a coffee and a yarn with Andrew Little on Labour Day (Auckland)

andrew littleServo Cafe, Te Atatu, 2:30 on Monday 27 October.

Save our tea breaks

tea-breaks
Labour hopes to collect signatures for this petition over Labour Weekend…

One post today has a degree of irony in modern New Zealand.

Labour day – thank a unionist

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Categories: human rights, Unions, workers’ rights
Tags: ,

Today is a day to celebrate the rights hard won by workers and unions, past and present. There’s a reason it’s called “Labour Day” not “Free Market Day”…

samuel parnell - square

The photo is of Samuel Parnell who is credited with starting the eight hour day in 1840 – a time when many workplaces would have had no clocks or watches so must have judged the time of their working day.

Today is a non-labour day for many (except at home). But it is very much a market day, especially for gardening and hardware shops. Sales abound:

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