Today is Labour Day in Australia, the day in which Aussies commemorate the achievements of the Australian labour movement.
Once upon a time, workers to Australia came from England under penal transportation. Under the Master and Servant Act, workers worked long hours, 10 to 12 hours a day, sometimes more, six days a week. As little as an hour’s absence from work resulted in the forfeit of wages and even imprisonment. The Act, which required obedience and loyalty from servants to their contracted employer, was also used against workers organising for better conditions.
It didn’t stop a courageous group of workers though. On April 21, 1856, stonemasons and other building workers on building sites throughout Melbourne stopped working. They marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House demanding an eight-hour day. Their protest was a success and they are noted as being among the first organised workers in the world to achieve an eight-hour day with no loss of pay.
There have been many more developments since then including the improvement of working conditions, better wages, the five-day work week, and, of course, the emergence of the Australian Labour Party.
Take a load off, have fun, and stay safe on this Labour Day holiday!