In 66 countries, the contributions of workers are honoured on Labour Day. In New Zealand, Labour Day is marked on the fourth Monday of October.
Labour Day commemorates the struggle for an eight-hour working day. New Zealand workers were among the first in the world to claim this right when, in 1840, the carpenter Samuel Parnell won an eight-hour day in Wellington. Labour Day was first celebrated in New Zealand on 28 October 1890, when several thousand trade union members and supporters attended parades in the main centres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and many businesses closed for at least part of the day.
Early Labour Day parades drew huge crowds in places such as Palmerston North and Napier as well as in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Unionists and supporters marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events.
However by the 1920s Labour Day had begun to decline as a public spectacle. For most New Zealanders it is now an opportunity to have an extra day of rest from work — and a three-day weekend for picnics and other activities.