Australian Labour day 1st March [8 Hours Day]

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International Workers’ Day also known as Labour Day or May Day, is a celebration of Laborers and the working classes that is promoted by the International Labour Movement and occurs every year on May Day (1 May).

In 1886 in Chicago, on 1 May, there was a general strike for the eight-hour workday. On 4 May, the police acted to disperse a public assembly in support of the strike. The police fired on the workers. The event led to the deaths of at least thirty-eight civilians /protesters; and injury of one hundred and fifteen civilians /protesters. Hundreds of Labour leaders and sympathizers were later rounded-up and four were executed by hanging, after a trial that was seen as a miscarriage of justice. The following day on 5 May, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the state militia fired on a crowd of strikers killing seven, including a schoolboy.

1 May was chosen to be International Workers’ Day to commemorate the 1886 Haymarket affair in Chicago for political reasons by the Marxist International Socialist Congress, which met in Paris and adopted a resolution for a “great international demonstration” in support of working-class demands for the eight-hour day. Subsequently, the May Day riots of 1894 occurred.

The International Socialist Congress, Amsterdam 1904 called on “all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the eight-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and universal peace. The congress made it “mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers. 

May Day has been a focal point for demonstrations by various socialist, communist and anarchist groups since the Second International. May Day is one of the most important holidays in communist countries such as China, North Korea, Cuba, and the former Soviet Union countries. May Day celebrations in these countries typically feature elaborate workforce parades, including displays of military hardware and soldiers.

May Day became an official federal holiday in the US in 1894. Today, the majority of countries around the world celebrate a workers’ day on 1 May. To mitigate the Communist color of the day, in 1955, the Catholic Church dedicated 1 May to “Saint Joseph the Worker”. Saint Joseph is the patron saint of workers and craftsmen, among others. 

In Pakistan, where very strong ideological opposition to communism existed on religious grounds, efforts were made to declare, Yom-e-Badar as the Labour Day; but the move was fizzled/defeated by Military and Civilian Bureaucrats, because of their slavish mentality of following the West blindly.

A Brief History

In October 1786, the British government appointed Arthur Phillip, captain of the HMS Sirius, and commissioned him to establish an agricultural work camp there in Australia for British convicts. Accompanied by a small contingent of Marines and other officers, Phillip led his 1,000-strong party, of whom more than 700 were convicts, around to Australia. Initially flogging and hangings were commonplace and effective instruments of coercion and enforcing desired discipline among the indigenous population and the convicts.   

On April 21, 1856, stonemasons at the University of Melbourne marched to Parliament House to push for an eight-hour working day. An agreement with employers for a 48-hour week was eventually reached and Australian workers welcomed the new eight-hour day. 

Labour Day / Eight Hours Day is an important annual event remembered in Australia, commemorating those who struggled and succeeded to ensure decent and fair working conditions. During the mid to late 1800s, the working day was long and arduous, where some employees would work up to 12 hours a day, six days a week.

The Labour Day date was moved from May to the second Monday in March in some parts of Australia after World War II. Since 1948, Labour Day in Western Australia has been observed on the first Monday in March. It marks the granting of the eight-hour working day to Western Australians.

Labour Day, also known as Eight Hours Day in Tasmania and May Day in the Northern Territory in Australia, commemorates the granting of the eight-hour working day for workers in Australia.

Symbols

The number eight has often been spotted on many union buildings in Australia to symbolize an eight-hour working day. For example, the Eight-Hour monument featuring a golden globe bearing the 888 symbols was erected in Spring Street in Melbourne in 1903.

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