Next Monday, you have a paid day off. Do you know why? Because workers organised themselves into unions and fought for better pay and conditions, starting with an 8-hour day. Labour Day is both a product of those achievements and a chance to celebrate them.
The TEU has set up a Labour Day website to remind us of the many rights we owe to all the workers down the years who have had the sense and the strength to contribute to unions. The site has tells the story of how the 8-hour day and Labour Day were won, the unions’ wins in recent years, and the issues facing workers at the moment. There’s even a cheeky competition to win a book on the legacy of Samuel Parnell by saying what extra public holiday you would like to have.
Anyway, it’s such a good yarn, I’ve copied the story of Samuel Parnell and the fight for the 8-hour week below. As you read, remember it was only low unemployment and workers cooperating in their collective action that made victory possible:
In 1839, before the Treaty of Waitangi, Samuel Parnell organised to introduce the eight-hour working day making New Zealand the first country in the world to achieve such conditions. His first job in New Zealand was when a shipping merchant, George Hunter, asked him to erect a store for him.
â€˜I will do my best,’ replied Parnell, â€˜but I must make this condition, Mr. Hunter, that on the job the hours shall only be eight for the day.’
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