Eight Hours Day – March 14, 2022

Eight Hours Day in Australia is celebrated on the second Monday in March in some parts of Australia. It is another name for Labour Day, which is celebrated on different days across the world to honor all the working people who have collectively stood up for their rights.

Eight Hours Day is a commemoration of the Australian Labour Movement, which began in the 1800s and included unions as well as political groups. It was instigated by the skilled tradesmen who refused to work long hours and demanded an eight-hour workday. They protested till their employers came to the negotiation table and achieved their goals.

History of Eight Hours Day

Eight Hours Day in Australia is celebrated in parts of Australia like Victoria, Tasmania, and Western Australia. It is a celebration of the victory of the stonemasons who demanded limited work hours and refused to work till the workday was limited to eight hours.

The eight-hour day movement or 40-hour week movement was a social movement to regulate the length of a working day, regulating the workweek and preventing abuse of workers by their employers. In Australia, the British established penal colonies where people were forced into indentured servitude. At the time, trade unions were illegal, and even with growing changes, people who looked for better work or left their jobs without permission could be hunted down.

When the Australian gold rush began, many skilled tradesmen came to work in Australia. A lot of them had been active in the Chartism movement that campaigned for people’s rights. These tradesmen worked with the people of Australia and began to demand better working conditions, as well as limited workdays.

Workers in different companies and industries began to protest and win eight-hour workdays for themselves across Australia. Then, in Sydney, the Stonemasons Society issued a six-month ultimatum to employers to reduce work hours to eight-hour days. This set off a chain of protests across industries and craft unions throughout Sydney and New South Wales. The movement crept into Melbourne, led by veteran Chartists.

A great deal of campaigning was necessary to extend the eight-hour day to all workers in Australia, and eventually, the Eight Hours Act was passed in Victoria, guaranteeing all workers the right to an eight-hour workday in the state

Eight Hours Day timeline

1855
Sydney Stonemasons Society Issues an Ultimatum

All employers are asked to limit their workdays to eight hours within six months, but they fail to comply.

1856
Stonemasons Push for Reduced Work Hours

The stonemasons working on the Parramatta Road go on strike for two weeks, which is very effective and brings employers to the negotiating table.

1879
Eight Hours Day is a Public Holiday

In Victoria, Eight Hours Day is a public holiday, with the eight-hour day established in the 1860s.

1948
The Commonwealth Arbitration Court Approves 40-hour Week

Known as the greatest victory of the workers, this approval means that all workers in Australia can enjoy an eight-hour workday.

Eight Hours Day FAQs

What country started the eight-hour workday?

The campaign for an eight-hour workday began in Australia. 

Why is it eight hours for work?

The worker’s rights campaigns were to ensure that people had eight hours to rest, eight hours for recreation, and only eight hours of work. 

Does a 40-hour work week include lunch?

If you take a lunch break, that time is not considered part of your workday. 

How to Observe Eight Hours Day

  1. Take a break

    The eight-hour workday was to ensure that workers are not exploited. Honor their efforts by not working at all today.

  2. Join your trade union

    Being part of a union is the most effective protection a worker has. Make sure you know your trade union and are a member.

  3. Go to an event

    Processions, marches, and other events are part of the Eight Hours Day celebrations. Head over to one near you.

5 Facts About Eight Hours Day That Will Surprise You

  1. The Stonemasons were in high demand

    This gave the workers the power to stand their ground and demand better working conditions since their services were very valuable.

  2. Sydney workers were agitated before the ultimatum

    Stonemasons working on Holy Trinity Church and Mariner’s Church didn’t wait for the six-month timeline and went on strike, and achieved an eight-hour workday without pay cuts.

  3. Victoria established eight-hour days first

    Among all the states in Australia, Victoria was the first to pass the Eight Hours Act and ensure limited work hours for all workers.

  4. There is an Eight Hours monument

    Now found outside the Melbourne Trades Hall, the Eight Hours Monument was funded by public subscription and Tom Mann spoke at its unveiling.

  5. 888 on buildings are for the movement

    The intertwined 888 reflects the eight-hour movement’s ditty about eight hours for work, play, and sleep, and is found on trade buildings across Australia.

Why Eight Hours Day is Important

  1. We believe in workers rights

    Eight Hours Day is a celebration of the victories that were hard-won by workers who agitated for limited workdays. We stand behind this important cause.

  2. We want to honor the workers

    Without the stonemasons who started the protests, we wouldn’t have the eight-hour days we have now. This reason is enough to honor them.

  3. We want to rest

    And the best way to honor the rights that people fought for is to use them. Use the time to rest instead of being on the grind all the time.

Eight Hours Day dates

YearDateDay
2022March 14Monday
2023March 13Monday
2024March 11Monday
2025March 10Monday
2026March 9Monday

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