Labour Day in Australia
Labour Day in Australia, celebrates the achievement of 8 hour working day . The Slogan Eight hours labour, Eight hours recreation and Eight Hours rest” became the motto of the labour movement in Australia in the 18th Century. The first to achieve the 8 hour working day were the operative stonemasons of New South Wales in 1855. The eight hour working day was then won by stonemasons in Melbourne on April 1856. As thousands of people rushed off to the gold fields at that time, there was a shortage of workers in Melbourne. So it was a good time for workers to demand improvement in their conditions and wages. Before this time, Australian workers were expected to work 10 – 12 hours a day.
The first Labour Day procession took place on 21st April 1856. From that year onwards the labour day march grew each year. By 1891, seventy one trades and societies were represented and 8000 people attended the march.
The Struggle for Eight hour Working day in Australia
The Employer – Employee relationship in the 18th and early 19th century were governed by the Master and Servant Act, which came into effect in 1823 in United Kingdom. This Act greatly influenced the Australian Masters and Servants Act of 1845. These acts were biased towards the employers and promoted discipline, loyalty and obedience from the workers towards their Employers. The infringements of the law were punishable before the court with Jail sentences of hard labour. On those years employees who left their employment without permission were hunted down. As little as one hour’s absence by a free servant without permission could result in punishment of Prison.
Stonemason’s society in Sydney ,on 18th August 1855, issued an ultimatum to employers that in six months’ time masons would only work eight hours a day. Stone masons working on Holy Trinity Church and Mariners Church did not wait for the six months dead line and went pre-emptively on strike. Their demand for 8 hour work day was accepted and the jubilant stone masons of NSW celebrated with a victory dinner on 1st October 1855.
Melbourne Stonemasons and Building workers followed the suit and stopped work and marched from University of Melbourne to Parliament House for Eight hour day. Their direct action protest was a success, and they are noted as being among the first organised workers in the world to achieve an 8 hour day, with no loss of pay
The Labour day Public holiday in Australia
The Labour Day public holiday is fixed by various states and territory governments in Australia. They vary considerably.
ACT – The first Monday in October
NSW – The First Monday in October
SA – The first Monday in October
Victoria – The Second Monday in March
Tasmania – The second Monday in March
Western Australia – First Monday in March
Queensland – First Monday in May
Northern Territory – First Monday in May