Every 1st of May of the year, we observe Labour Day or Hari Buruh. The day is also gazetted as the national or federal Public Holiday, and that includes this year, 2008.
But how many of us here know what exactly is this Labour Day, why we’re observing it, how it first happened, and where it happened? Nothing can delight us more than having a day off, isn’t it, regardless of the reason behind it.
Perhaps, after reading this, we would be able to appreciate that some of the HR regulations today were the results of some of older generation fighting for a cause more than 100 years ago.
Actually there are 2 different versions of Labour Day. First is the Labour Day which we and most other countries observe on 1st of May. The second one, termed as the Labor Day, is a federal holiday for United States, and takes place on the first Monday of September. Here we are more interested in the former.
The Labour Day celebration originated from Australia, when a movement called Stonemasons, which advocated 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of rest for workers, rose to prominence during the 1850s. During this time, workers were required to work for 10 to 12 hours per day, six days per work. The movement wanted an 8 hour work per day instead, without any drop in salary.
Even though the 8 hour movement was earlier seen as a success in New Zealand, the first public celebration was held in Melbourne, when groups of workers abandoned their work and marched in a parade towards the Australian Parliament House.
The 8 hour celebration was eventually translated into what we know as Labour Day – a day of commemoration and appreciation of labors, workers and the unions. Most countries celebrate Labour Day on 1st of May, with a number of exceptions.
In Australia itself, the dates for Labour Day observance vary considerably and is decided by state and constituency. Canada celebrated on the same day with the US – first Monday of every September, while in New Zealand, it falls on fourth Monday on every October.
Today, the Malaysia Employment Act 1955 stated that workers should never be allowed to work more than 8 hours without a break in between. Guess now we know where this 8 hours come from?