Labour Day was instigated to celebrate the acceptance of the 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 sup-porters attended parades in the main cen-tres. Government employees were given the day off to attend the parades and marched behind colourful banners and ornate floats, and the parades were followed by popular picnics and sports events and many busi-nesses closed for at least part of the day
These parades also had a political pur-pose. Although workers in some industries had long enjoyed an eight-hour day, it was not a legal entitlement.
What the Liberals did do was make La-bour Day a holiday. The Labour Day Act of 1899 created a statutory public holiday on the second Wednesday in October, first cel-ebrated in 1900. The holiday was 'Monday-ised' in 1910, and since then it has been held on the fourth Monday in October.
However the true significance has been long lost and Labour Day has become, not unlike Waitangi Day, for most just another ‘day off’ though ‘labour’ still forms a large part of weekend activity according to ACC figures. Nowadays this is a weekend of se-rious sport for some and serious gardening and spring cleaning for others incurring an awful lot of injuries and subsequent claims.
Following Labour Weekend last year there was a total of 15,470 claims costing more than $11.2 million to date. The biggest cause of home injuries is falls, which ac-count for around 40 percent. About 45 per-
cent of falls happen to "working age" people, those aged 20 to 64.
Most of the tens of thousands of ACC claims over the long weekends were because of sporting accidents, as well as the likes of sprains, strains, cuts, stings, and burns. The most common causes of accidents are lift-ing, lowering, loading and unloading, walk-ing, running, and children playing.
Last Labour Weekend 97 trampoline ac-cidents were recorded – the highest for any long weekend. Ninety claims were made for lawnmower accidents followed by 22 inju-ries due to hammers alone, testament to our DIY ability, and closely followed by cooking and barbecue-related accidents.
Isn’t it ironic that the very day which was introduced to curtail overwork now forms part of our most accident-prone weekend of the year.
By Rob Pooley