Labour Day

Labour Day is a New Zealand public holiday commemorated each year on the fourth Monday in October. Labour Day (spelt Labor Day in America) is commemorated by many countries on different dates. All Christchurch City Libraries branches will be closed on Monday 22 October 2018.

Labour Day celebrates when the eight hour working day and the 48 hour working week became the law in New Zealand in 1899. This was later changed to 40 hours.

The interior of a clothing factory [1909], CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0012
The interior of a clothing factory [1909], CCL PhotoCD 9, IMG0012
The idea of an eight hour day was started in New Zealand by Samuel Parnell, a carpenter in Wellington. In 1840 Parnell refused to work for more than eight hours each day, and because there were not many people who had his carpentry skills in New Zealand at the time, his employers had to agree to him working those hours.

 

Other workers also bargained for an eight hour day, but as more skilled workers came to New Zealand and competed for work, employers were able to change the conditions of employment to suit themselves.

Parnell and others kept working for improvements to working conditions for tradespeople and labourers.

Striking slaughtermen outside the Supreme Court, Christchurch [1907]
Striking slaughtermen outside the Supreme Court, Christchurch [1907], CCL PhotoCD 16, IMG0008
On 28 October 1890 Samuel Parnell led a Labour Day parade of 1,500 people to commemorate his establishment of the eight hour day and to encourage other industries to do the same. He died a few weeks later on 17 December 1890.

Nine years later Labour Day became an official public holiday, celebrated on the second Wednesday in October. This was changed to the fourth Monday in 1910.

More information

A maid of all work [1908], CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0091
A maid of all work [1908],CCL PhotoCD 17, IMG0091
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