What's Labour Day all about?

  • 26/10/2015

For most New Zealanders it's just another holiday but Labour Day marks a struggle for an eight-hour working day.

The Labour Party's labour relations spokesman Iain Lees-Galloway is reminding people of this as they enjoy the public holiday today.

He's urging people to battle on for workers' rights.

"There's more to do," he says.

New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim the right to an eight-hour day.

In 1840 carpenter Samuel Parnell refused to work for more than eight hours each day, and because there weren't many tradespeople in New Zealand at the time, his employers had to agree.

On October 28, 1890 Mr Parnell led a Labour Day parade to commemorate his win and to encourage other industries to do the same.

Nine years later The Labour Day Act created a statutory public holiday on the second Wednesday in October, first celebrated in 1900. The holiday was "mondayised" in 1910, and since then it has been held on the fourth Monday in October.

"Kiwis traditionally celebrate the eight-hour working day on Labour Day. For most people that's a thing of the past with insecure and irregular work, long hours, and low pay becoming the norm," Mr Lees-Galloway says.

Many people now find their jobs get in the way of joining a sports team or volunteering in the community or even seeing their kids in a school production, he says.