Labour day

Written By: - Date published: 7:55 am, October 24th, 2011 - 16 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, history, labour - Tags: ,

Labour Day celebrates the successful struggle for an eight-hour working day. Its a story that goes back to 1840, when London born carpenter Samuel Parnell arrived in NZ, landing at Petone beach. A fellow passenger asked Parnell to build him a shop, and Parnell’s response has entered New Zealand folklore:

I will do my best, but I must make this condition, Mr. Hunter, that on the job the hours shall only be eight for the day … There are twenty-four hours per day given us; eight of these should be for work, eight for sleep, and the remaining eight for recreation and in which for men to do what little things they want for themselves. I am ready to start to-morrow morning at eight o’clock, but it must be on these terms or none at all.

From this humble beginning a movement grew and spread, culminating in the Labour Day Act of 1899 which created a statutory public holiday as a suitable occasion to pay tribute to Parnell and the other pioneers.

The legacy of Samuel Parnell is still very much with us.  The labour union movement is a vital part of the New Zealand workplace, and of course the Labour Party was established on 7 July 1916 in Wellington to represent the interests of the workers.  That remains the core business of the party to this day, as Labour’s work and wages policy attests:

…the vast majority of Kiwis are worse off now than they were three years ago with Statistics NZ indicating last week that inflation rose by 9% and incomes increased by only 2.5% in that period.  Labour will reverse this government’s punitive changes to employment laws and put in place a system to lift the bar on wages so that we can compete better with Australia.

  • A system for extending minimum wage and conditions standards in suitable industries.
  • A Workplace Commissioner in the Employment Relations Authority to agree appropriate industry standards.
  • $15/hour minimum wage.
  • Repealing National‟s 90-day law.
  • Amending the Holidays Act to ensure 11 days of public holidays each year, regardless of them falling on a weekend day.
  • Restoring reinstatement as the primary remedy when an employee has been unjustifiably dismissed.
  • Labour’s Work and Wages policy is a sensible way forward to improve the lives of Kiwis and is standard practice in many other countries we compare ourselves with, including Australia.
  • This policy is an important part of our plan to get New Zealand back onto a solid foundation for growth by paying off our ballooning national debt, keeping our state assets, making everyone pay their fair share of tax, creating new jobs through investment in high tech companies, lifting productivity in the workplace and increasing our self-reliance through a larger savings pool.

The reaction to this policy in some quarters was little short of hysterical (good summary here). Opponents tried to paint it as back to the past, back to the bad old days of the 1970’s. A lot of this rhetoric was poorly informed nonsense about minimum wage reducing employment (it doesn’t). None of it recognised that, for all the faults of the 1970s, workers were doing a lot better then than they are now.  In short, most of the criticism was scare mongering from critics unable to separate the baby from the bath water, unable to imagine taking good ideas and recreating them in new forms.

On this Labour Day it is great to see that the Labour Party is staying true to its roots, and is out there promoting a labour policy to lift the wages and conditions of the workers of New Zealand.

16 comments on “Labour day”

  1. Carol 1

    Some sound & necessary policies there. Pity they’re talking about “growth”.

    As a weekend worker, I’m glad they’re not just talking about Mondayisation of public holidays, but ensuring that everyone gets 11 public holidays a year – presumably that’s 11 for fulltime workers and “pro rata” for us part time workers?

    Also I think it’s timely to remember the roots of Labour Day – work for all those of working age and able to work, without being over-worked, and for a fair income.

    • Afewknowthetruth 1.1


      ‘Pity they’re talking about “growth”.

      Well spotted.

      It just goes to show that either the Labour party is a party of fuckwits (we are at ‘Peak Everything’, and growth is the both problem and is impossible) or they have sold themsleves to the money-lenders and will say anything.

      Either way, nothing good will come from Labour as it is presently constituted.

      • Uturn 1.1.1

        Usually I’d agree – the word Growth is a Trojan Horse for anything and anything economically positive for a few and socially destructive for the rest. But you have to appreciate it in context. The final bullet point/sentence seems to define growth as people keeping their jobs; jobs being the thing that actually creates the products, profit/wealth and rewards or specifically to the OP discussion, pays off debt.

        • Afewknowthetruth


          You have missed two important points.

          1. Economic growth is what is killing the planet we live on …. and it doesn’t matter which social class does the growing or which class gets most of benefits. Growth= destruction. You cannot consume a planet and live on it.

          2. With a dwindling global oil supply economic growth can only be achieved in one region of the world by forcing another region of the world to contract even faster (causing greater hardship and more starvation etc.).

          If you are morally at ease with stealing global resources in order to promote growth in NZ that will destroy the next generation’s future what can anyone say?

          • Uturn

            Humans are part of a dynamic system that allows them to consume enough to survive. Our species is not an abberation of creation (and by creation I mean all things, not a reference to divine creation). Simply put, we must all consume something, to live.

            You and I consume food to stay alive. We could grow veges and eat them, throwing the uneaten parts on the ground or purposefully compost them and enter a world of permaculture. Unless you’re planning on suicide, and I hope you aren’t, you too must consume. The body consumes food for energy and moves and creates; the mind consumes ideas and motivates acts; the environment consumes us through age and one day we die.

            I understand there is big difference between mining, drilling for oil and basic food needs, but there has to be a transitional stage from one reality to the other and that requires some temporary compromises. At least, I believe humans are capable of engineering that transition without the past incidences of violent collapse of empires. With compromise comes tension. Humans are capable, whether they choose to do it is anyone’s guess.

            • Draco T Bastard

              Humans are part of a dynamic system that allows them to consume enough to survive.

              Except that we started consuming far more than we need a few centuries ago and called it “wealth” and that “wealth” is killing the environment which we need to live.

              The final bullet point/sentence seems to define growth as people keeping their jobs; jobs being the thing that actually creates the products, profit/wealth and rewards or specifically to the OP discussion, pays off debt.

              We don’t need to do this. In fact, doing that is the problem.

            • Afewknowthetruth


              Theere are two flaws in your argument.

              1. The global human population is in severe overshoot [of around 5 billion] as a consequence of food produced by the industrial system (which is about to go into decline).

              2. The time ot make the transition you mention was 40 years ago, shortly after M King Hubbert had been proven right about the future of oil and it was clear that humanity was on the wrong path.

              Instead of transition to a sane and sustainable society we got Reagan and Thatcher, Rogernomics, and a culture of faster consumption of the little that was left of the Earth’s resources (plus higher levels of pollution, of course).

              Actually, we are discussing a war that was lost two centuries ago, when the Luddite movement was crushed by the industrial-money-lender empire.

              We are now hitting the resources wall and the pollution wall, and are still governed by idiots who say ‘destroy the Earth faster”.

              At the coming election we will be offered the chance to vote for a different pack of idiots who say ‘destroy the Earth faster’.

  2. Afewknowthetruth 2

    It’s a great pity that Labour sold out to the money-lenders and corporations in the mid-1980s and by the time Helen Clark was in power had sold out to the militatists.

    However, the selling out of basic principles are no longer the main issue. Now that it is abundantly clear that industrial activity is ‘killing’ the Earth, and that job protectin and job creation (in the orthodox meaning of those words) are counterproductive, Labour really is up a creek without a paddle.

    Global oil extraction peaked around 2005 and is on its way down, meaning the global economy MUST contract. The standard of living and the quality of life will continue to fall throughout the wolrd as long as societies are locked into redundant paradigms of industrialism. Also, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at an ever faster rate and are likely to surge very soon, as positive feedbacks reinforce one another, in all probability rendering most of the Earth uninhabitable within the lifetime of children living now.

    Hence, all the party leadership and all the candidates I know of are running from the truth as fast as they can, pretending that more of the same will be our salvation.

    For most people Labour Day is not a day for becoming informed or for reflection but is just another day to consume a bit more of the planet we live on and bring termination of the human species (along with most other species on this planet) a bit closer.

    And, just in case there is any confusion, there are no ‘hi-tech’ solutions to the fundamental predicament we are in, but ‘innovation’, i.e. deep-sea drilling, fracking, digging up tar sands etc., will allow the behemoth to keep destroying habitability the Earth for a little longer.

    • John H 2.1

      Well you’re a bundle of laughs this morning. I bet you booed the All Blacks too…

      • Afewknowthetruth 2.1.1


        A fairly typical response to truth.

        By the way, I recognised internationalised sport for what it is (mind control and distraction for the masses) more than a decades ago.

        The system requires lots of victims. If you did watch the ABs, thanks for volunteering to be a victim of the system.

        If you have any children, do apologise to them for the planetary destruction involved in RWC (all that flying, comnsumption of beer, plastic flags etc. and the shortening of thier lives that will be a natural consequence of the collective madness.

  3. randal 3

    did you hear richard loe and duncan garner sneering at Labour day on the radio on friday. they cant stand anything that people do for themselves. They want to dole it out if they feel like it.

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      The leaders of the RWNJs are, despite their claims to the contrary, trying to create a society of dependence. Unlike a democratic society where the people are dependent upon the people they’re trying to create one where the people are dependent upon the capitalists. This, of course, would transfer total control of society to the capitalists bringing about their preferred dictatorship.

  4. randal 4

    There is one in every crowd and along comes john h.
    I suppose you are mates with loe and garner who sneered at Labour day on the radio on Friday. They dont want to give working people anything unless they dole it out personally on a whim. They think they are a better class of person. just like you.

  5. randal 5

    there is one in every crowd johnh and you are it today.

  6. Tiger Mountain 6

    Well at least this Labour Day there are no scabby “NZ is Middle Earth” anti union company town (Weta) rallies. With triangulated labour relationships people that are clearly workers and employees are regarded as contractors. I would like to totally blame Warners, but film techies have swallowed this garbage themselves for years, and they did ultimately help enable ShonKey to legislate. Has any other country in the world got law that mentions Hobbits?

    Funny thing about public holidays, they seem to encourage hypocrisy, atheists like me are happy to take xmas day off, scabs and less conscious non unionists enjoy Labour Day and racists Waitangi Day.

  7. Hilary 7

    Went to visit the local Wellington Occupy this afternoon. Despite Wellington gales that were blowing over tents and noticeboards there was a really happy positive mood evident among the hundred or so mainly young people. About 40 tents evident beside and below the City to Sea bridge and a programme of discussions organised for the day and a march around Wellington. They have just produced a newspaper. Lots of people passing by stop and talk or take photos. It really is heartening to see. Wellington Police HQ is just across the road but they don’t seem to be taking much interest, which is good considering the dawn raids and other mass arrests in other countries. This Occupy should be encouraged as it makes the city feel good.

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