Labour Day: A reason to remember

The 22nd of October is Labour Day. Not only is this a public holiday – which is great – but it also serves as a great opportunity to remember workers’ history in addition to the rights that have been fought for, and won, throughout labour history in New Zealand.

Cover of Samuel Parnell: A legacyTo start at the start, Labour Day commemorates the successful fight for an eight hour working day. The right to the first eight hour work day was won by a carpenter in Wellington by the name of Samuel Parnell in 1840. This right was later enshrined into law with the Labour Day Act in 1899. This made Aotearoa-New Zealand one of the first countries in the world to introduce the eight hour work day. This was a great achievement and one that should not be taken for granted.

What Labour Day, and the history surrounding Labour Day, should serve to remind us is that the eight hour work day (40 hour work week) was not always the norm and that it was the result of a struggle. However this is not where this story ends: in 2008 the Department of Labour in New Zealand released figures that showed roughly 415,000 New Zealand workers were working in excess of 40 hours per week. This highlights the fact that there is, contrary to popular myth and perception, no longer any legislative rights to an eight hour working day in New Zealand.

Eight Hour Day Banner, Melbourne, 1856,
Eight Hour Day Banner, Melbourne, 1856 / Public Domain

For the reasons stated above, it is important to remember the history of days like Labour Day. Remembering the history is important in remembering the past and how far we have come as a country, but more importantly, to remember that there were struggles for these rights and to ensure that we don’t have to have to struggle for them again.

Other important events in worker’s history include:

  • The Formation of the Maritime Council in 1889 that formed in Dunedin with representatives from the wharf labourers’ and West Coast miners’ Unions.
  • The Maritime Strike of 1890.
  • The 1908 Blackball Miners’ Strike that won a 30 minute lunch break for the miners. This event would also lead to the rise of the New Zealand Federation of Labour.
  • The Maoriland Worker was launched in Christchurch in 1910 by the Shearers Union. It was a Monthly Journal that became influential during the Anti-war movement in the lead up to and during the first First World War.
  • The Waihi Miners’ Strike of 1912 was one of the most fierce industrial disputes in New Zealand’s history. 1,000 miners went on strike, bringing Waihi Gold Mine to a Standstill. Striking Miner Fred Evans was killed by a crowd of strikebreakers and the Police during the strike.
  • The Birth of the Labour Party in 1916 that was founded by representatives of the Social Democratic Party, the United Federation of Labour, and the Labour Representation Committees.
  • The 1924 Rail Strike.
  • The 1951 Waterfront Lockout and Supporting Strikes that lasted 151 days and involved 22,000 workers at the height of the dispute. This dispute arose when employers refused to agree to the 15% wage increase granted by the Arbitration Court.
  • The 1979 General Strike. The first general stoppage in the history of New Zealand’s industrial relations.

Resources on Labour Day and Labour History in New Zealand:

There are also many great books on New Zealand’s labour history that can be found in the library:

New Zealand Labour History

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Learning with Lynda

Have you been thinking about changing careers or retraining, but not sure if you want to take the plunge? How about checking out, an online video tutorial website available at Christchurch City Libraries?

With more than 6,300 courses and 267,000 video tutorials, Lynda has something for everyone. The website is easy to use – all you need is a library card and PIN and the courses are free! There is a huge range available, all designed and taught by recognised industry experts. Courses indicate their audience level – for beginners or advanced – so you are able to immediately tell if it is the right course for you.

Each course is broken up into small tutorials so you can learn at your own pace. So check out your learning options with, free with your Christchurch City Libraries Library membership.

Check out some of these options available right now!

  • Web Designer
  • Songwriter
  • Design a Comic Book
  • App Developer
  • Microsoft Office
  • IT Security Specialist
  • Social Media Marketer
  • Photographer
  • Video Editor
  • Project Manager
  • Master 2D Animation logo

Find out more about

Podcast – Women in the workplace

Speak Up Kōrerotia logoChristchurch City Libraries blog hosts a series of regular podcasts from New Zealand’s only specialist human rights radio show Speak up – Kōrerotia. This show is created by Sally Carlton.

This episode discusses issues around gender equality in the workplace such as –

  • Women’s Empowerment Principles
  • Pay inequity
  • Ethnicity and disability in the workplace
  • Representation of women on boards and in senior management
  • Gender quotas
  • Workplace policies for family violence and parental leave

The panel for this show includes host Sally Carlton, Dr Jackie Blue, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the NZ Human Rights Commission, Angela McLeod of UN Women Aotearoa and Erin Ebborn of Ebborn Law.

Transcript of the audio file

Find out more in our collection

Cover of Because we're worth it Cover of Lean in Cover of Sex and the office Cover of Raising the bar

More about Speak up – Kōrerotia

The show is also available on the following platforms:

Get your CV fighting fit

A CV (or resumé) is a living document. The way you described your skills and employment history five years ago is by no means the way you should do it now, and it’s generally accepted that it’s best to adjust your CV to suit whatever job you’re applying for.

Which is all well and good but how do you do that?

If you think your CV could use some sprucing, or if you need some help with writing a cover letter then get to Linwood Library during September and October for a free course run by tutors from Hagley Adult Literacy Centre.

Over the course of five weeks you will be armed with:

  • Group of young people at the libraryjob search skills
  • an understanding of job search terminology
  • a CV tailored to your own experience and skills
  • a generic cover letter you can use as a template for future job applications.

The CV and cover letter classes run for five Thursdays 12.30-2pm, from 17thSeptember to 15th October.

This class is free to attend but to be guaranteed a place booking is recommended. For bookings and more information, please contact us on 941 7923 or email

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho – to Linwood we will go!

How to get a jobIt’s that time of the year when our minds turn reluctantly from puddings to jobs: the getting of them, the keeping of them and the changing of them.

Make a start with our Online Career Help Resources. Then have a look at Getting a Job which will yield 219 items. Most are for adults (which is to be expected), but there are 24 for children and only 4 specifically for teenagers which is a little odd. Perhaps by the teen years parents have given up on child labour and are just biding their time. Here’s a few of my favourites:

  • What Color is Your Parachute by Richard Bolles. I’ve actually used this book, and look at the job I landed! If you can sweep aside some of the American tweeness, it is jam-packed with hints and is very positive in its approach. It also comes with a version for teens and (is there to be no respite?), I see there is one for retirement as well.
  • Happy@WorkHappy @ Work by Jim Donovan. Not happy at work? Before you dump what you’ve got, have a look-see for ways to improve it. This book, with its jaunty cover hinting at the possibility that all I need is a new coffee mug, has an upbeat approach and is a popular read.
  • Maybe you do just need a break. How to Be Idle by Tom Hodgkinson is a droll look at slowing right down that may just kick-start your What Do I Really Want From Life neurons in unexpected ways.
  • And I can’t resist giving a plug to this children’s book: How to Get a Job, by Me the Boss. A sort of “out of the mouths of babes’ approach”. After all, let’s not lose our sense of humour here!

But wait, there’s more. This week, Linwood Library amps it right up with their CV and Cover Letter Week. All week, Linwood staff will be available to help with your CV, cover letter, e-mailing your application and more. It’s a great idea – just book yourself an appointment with your very own librarian by phoning 941-7923.

Finally, it’s not a proper job hunt until it has its own signature tune, so here goes: Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho … and good luck!