11 March 2014 - LABOUR DAY - Australia

G'day folks,

We have just celebrated Labour Day in Australia. It is a day that is celebrated in many countries at various times. A public holiday is provided here in the state where I live, as it is in most Australian states. We have a big festival known as Moomba, where all sorts of entertainment is provided, including a water skiing contest on the Yarra River which runs through our capital city. We also have a massive street parade where hundreds of floats parade.
 So, what is Labour Day?

Labour Day is an annual public holiday that celebrates the eight-hour working day, a victory for workers in the mid-late 19th century. The argument for the eight-hour day was based on the need for each person to have eight hours labour, eight hours recreation and eight hours rest.

In the early 19th century, most labourers worked 10- or 12-hour days for six days each week. 

The 1850s brought a strong push for better conditions. A significant part of the push began in 1855 in Sydney. On 21 April 1856, in Melbourne, the stonemasons workers staged a well-organised protest. They downed tools and walked to Parliament House with other members of the building trade. Their fight was for an eight-hour day, effectively a 48-hour week to replace the 60-hour week. The government agreed to an eight-hour day for workers employed on public works, with no loss of pay.

The win was a world first but did not end all labour problems. Many working conditions were harsh and demanding, and women were paid a lot less than men.

But the victory for the eight-hour day was significant and several hundred building workers marched in a parade in May 1856 to celebrate their win.

Tinsmiths, bootmakers, tailors, metal workers and stonemasons were amongst many of workers’ groups that protested and fought for better working conditions across the country. 

Over the next two decades, one by one, the states brought in the eight-hour-day although the working week was still officially six days until 1948 when it was changed to five days.

 'CT' chillin' out.
Labour Day (Labor Day in the US) is also often referred to as May Day around the world. Internationally it is celebrated on 1 May and is known as International Workers’ Day in more than 80 countries. International Workers’ Day traces its international routes back to the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago, USA. The universal significance is that, across the world, the eight-hour day is considered the fairest working hours in a day for people in any industry.

Today, Labour Day in Australia is known as Eight-Hour Day in Tasmania and May Day in the Northern Territory. It is always on a Monday, creating a long weekend. Marches or parades usually occur in Queensland now, but not always there depending on the state government at the time.

Clancy's comment: Hard-won conditions should always be preserved, especially when one looks at the hours of work put in by those living in emerging and third-world countries - just to survive. However, have we become too soft? Maybe. I have often referred to Australia as the 'Land of the Long Weekend.' 

I guess it's all about finding a balance. And, for those of us fortunate enough to live in democratic countries, it's about us being very conscious of the struggles that others endure. 

I'm ...

Think about this!

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