Labour Day commemorates the achievements of the Australian labour movement, not only in securing limited hours of work, but also in advocating for safer working conditions, payed overtime, sick leave, annual leave, superannuation and maternity leave.
While we take these conditions for granted, in the past workers often worked for 10-12 hours per day, six days a week for little reward. Labour Day has its origins in the eight hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. On the 21st of April 1856, stonemasons and builders around Melbourne stopped work and marched from the University of Melbourne to Parliament House calling for an eight-hour day. Their protest was a success, and they are noted as being the first organised group of workers in the world to achieve an eight-hour day with no loss of pay. Other states quickly followed in recognising the need for adequate rights for workers.
With many Australians now working longer hours, Labour Day is also a time to reflect on our current working conditions and even more on the conditions for workers in other countries in our region.
Buying fair trade products is one way we can help these workers. At our Fair Trade Shop in Bayswater, we stock a number of products that support workers. TARA Projects, a cooperative in Northern India, works with 25 community-based groups of artisans to provide access to the world market through fair trade. Preserving traditional Indian craft techniques from generation to generation, TARA has also pioneered fair wages and non-formal education programs in the region. You can find more information at TARA Projects, or come in to the shop at 5 King William Street in Bayswater and see our range of traditionally crafted ornaments, hand embroidered beaded purses and novel and decorative keepsake boxes.