Labour Day in New Zealand…

 

Samuel Parnell

Samuel Parnell

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 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.

Read more:

http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/politics/labour-day

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2 Comments

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  1. Great article, I had no idea about this, because I came to NZ from Australia. IMHO… I think despite such a wonderful and inspirational beginnings in terms of workers’ rights and unionism, there is nowadays such a huge pay gap between the country’s richest and poorest working population. So much of New Zealand is built to make big business thrive at the cost of social and community benefit. There is a middle class here, but it’s a pretty small one and the gap between the rich and poor is larger than say in Australia (just my two cents) 🙂

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  2. Actually Labour Day is a bit of a sick joke now as the recently re-elected National government is poised to enact new legislation to further demean workers rights here. The Bill was sitting on the table waiting for the elections to be held first. Further more fewer workers voted for Labour too this time..

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