Will anyone who doesn’t have to work today, remember why?
Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day. . .
Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events. . .
What the Liberals did do was make Labour Day a holiday. The Labour Day Act of 1899 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. . .
Although unionists and their supporters continued to hold popular gatherings and sports events, by the 1920s Labour Day had begun to decline as a public spectacle. For most New Zealanders, it was now just another holiday.
Statutory holiday or not, many people will be working – health professionals, police, supermarket and other shop staff, journalists and others in the media, people in hospitality and on farms. . .
Then there’s all the unpaid work done by people caring for their families and friends and in the community.
And this year for many it’s not just another holiday, it’s just another day of lockdown.
For far too many of those this will be a day when they would be working if they could and, in spite of last week’s announcement of more support from the government, will be wondering if their businesses will survive until they can work again.