We South Australians have just enjoyed a “Long Weekend” to celebrate “Labour Day” and many marched in the streets in remembrance. Mum always determinedly referred to it at “8 hours day” and reminded her children how hard the Unions toiled, with the workers, for better working conditions.
“eight hours of work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for sleep”
In the early 19th century, most labourers worked 10- or 12-hour days for six days each week. The 1850s brought a strong push for better conditions. The fight was for an eight-hour day, effectively a 48-hour week to replace the 60-hour week and Australian workers stopped work and marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House.
The government finally agreed to an eight-hour day for workers employed on public works, with no loss of pay. This win was a world first but did not end all labour problems. Many working conditions were harsh and demanding, and women were paid a lot less than men. However, the victory for the eight-hour day was a significant breakthrough, by the Unions to improve working conditions in Australia.
As our three day weekend came to a close mum’s words came flooding back so I checked Trove to see what I could find on our National Library of Australia site and to my delight was advised of a photo held here in our State Library of South Australia.
It shows Holden’s float for the 8 Hour Day procession in 1925 with a group of men standing alongside. The lorry was an A.E.C. registration number 24-347 and was new in 1925. This is the year my mum was born and her dad, Frederick Alexander ALLAN, would have been marching in that parade with others in the Waterside Workers Federation.
Many thanks also to Amy Houston, of Branches, Leaves & Pollen, for initiating the TROVE TUESDAY Theme.
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Copyright © 2013. Catherine Ann Crout-Habel