The history of Labour Day in NZ

  • 28/10/2013

While many New Zealanders have been enjoying a Monday off, their right to enjoy it was the result of some very hard work.

But whether the thinking that won us the long weekend is still relevant is another matter.

Labour Day is a work day for Brett Nicholls. Unknown to him, his boutique chocolate shop is in the suburb where the founder of Labour Day used to work.

"That's business nowadays," he says. "You do need to work a bit extra."

Some extra work on the history of the day also seems to be needed. Most people 3 News spoke to knew little about the day's history.

In 1840 carpenter Samuel Parnell fought for what we now call a work/life balance. He believed a workday should be eight hours long, leaving eight hours for sleep and eight for recreation.

It's been a public holiday since 1900, but the Council of Trade Unions says Labour Day's meaning has changed.

"We don't have the eight-hour day as a reality for most people," says CTU secretary Peter Conway. "We've got some people working far too many hours. We've got other people desperate for more hours and we've got a lot of people out of work, so we ain't there yet."

Even if few New Zealanders consider why they got a long weekend, Labour Day at least allows them the time to give it some thought.

3 News

source: newshub archive