Labour Day is a sick sad joke of a public holiday

‘I have a dream to work every hour of the day by a boss who is screwing me over’ isn’t particularly inspirational is it?


Labour Day became a national holiday in New Zealand in 1899. It was to commemorate and celebrate the rise of worker powers and how the earliest Pakeha settlers coming to New Zealand fought to create a fair balance of power between the boss and the worker.

Samuel Duncan Parnell came to New Zealand on the ship Duke of Roxburgh in 1839. He was a carpenter who was deeply impacted by the arguments of the day that people should be allowed 8 hours sleep, 8 hours to live their lives and 8 hours to the boss to work. He refused to join his Union in England because they refused to make an 8 hour working day a priority.

Once in New Zealand, Parnell refused to work for anyone who wouldn’t accept his 8 hour working rule and actively went and met new workers coming off the ships arriving in NZ to tell them of the 8 hour working culture he was trying to create.

The bosses tried to resist and tried to force workers to work later, but it became standard working hours in NZ after workers began simply walking off the job if a boss tried to force longer hours.

Fast forward to the NZ working environment of today and we see that Parnell would weep at how workers have been beaten into neo-feudalism. Kiwi workers work an average of 43.5hours a week with no penal rates. Many workers are over worked and many others are under worked. Many have a precarious working arrangement and have zero job security while health and safety in this country remains one of the worst in the developed would.

There have already been 54 deaths last year and the shadow of the Pike River Mine disaster hangs over industrial relations.

The Right wings war on Unions in NZ have successfully crushed most into irrelevance and this has happened while worker rights and safety has gone backwards.

When we ‘celebrated’ Labour Day weekend this week, there really wasn’t a hell of a lot to praise.

TDB Recommends

‘Less than adequate’ – Govt proposes ACC reform

The Government is proposing changes to a controversial Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) scheme in a move that could affect hundreds of thousands of New Zealand workers.

ACC Minister Carmel Sepuloni wants to introduce new rules for ACC’s Accredited Employers Programme, which is used by more than 100 major companies across the country. The changes will affect 25% of the New Zealand workforce.

Under the scheme, employers are given a discount on their levies if they promise to care for workers hurt on the job. They are bestowed with powers normally reserved for the Government and trusted to fund the rehabilitation and compensation of injured staff.

The disgusting right myth spread by right wing liars is that NZ is an over taxed, over regulated economy when that is total bullshit!

In a recent column, Max Rashbrooke highlighted the horror of NZs under regulated market

The bad news is that, to investigate 200,000-300,000 terrible rentals, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has employed a frontline inspectorate numbering … 37. Each inspector will have to check somewhere between 5000 and 8000 rentals.

…there is only 37 inspectors of rental properties for 300 000 terrible rentals?

Similar poorly funded regulation is apparent in the 82 labour inspectorates who are supposed to police hundreds of thousands of migrant worker exploitations!

Time and time and time again in New Zealand we see an old boy matrix of vested interests who occupy market dominance and act like a monopoly, duopoly or oligopoly raking in vast wealth while leaving the local small and medium sized operators outside the cosy relationships!

Up and down NZ, small and medium enterprises are unable to compete because of the lack of basic regulation in the market!

We’ve seen it with the Supermarket duopoly, the medicinal cannabis oligopoly, the Gib Board monopoly – each time under regulated and poorly regulated capitalism continues to screw over us the consumers at a time of a cost of living crisis!  

Frustration inside the drainage industry has reached boiling point recently with anti competitive practices and crony capitalism that would make your average South American Drug Cartels blush.

We are not an over taxed, over regulated economy!

Our top tax rate is the 39th highest in the world behind all the Scandinavian countries plus Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, France and South Africa!

Australia’s top tax rate is 47cents!

Our GST rate doesn’t even get us into the top 50 and our corporate tax rate is 40th while Government spending against GDP ranks 56th!

And we are voted easiest to do business by the World Bank!

Carmel Sepoloni, who is easily the worst insider in Cabinet, is still allowing the crony capitalism of these pricks who through their vast wealth and power are able to bypass ACC rules to shit all over workers who are hurt on the job.

I’m not looking for socialism here folks, just basic garden variety regulated capitalism!

The fact that these rich companies can bypass the regulations because of their power, and then when they damage workers don’t have to look after them is a fucking outrage!

The scheme is used by some of the country’s most recognisable businesses and entities, including Police, Air New Zealand, Fonterra, Fletcher Building, Foodstuffs and the Ports of Auckland, as well as multiple universities, banks and councils.

1News highlighted the programme earlier this year as part of an investigation intoTalley’s Group, one of the country’s biggest employers using the programme.

The story revealed an ACC monitoring report in February 2020 found “consistently inaccurate” payments by the Talley’s Group to workers hurt at its meatworks.

So a special scheme that allows the powerful and wealthy to get away with damaging their workers and not looking after them?

How charming.

Samuel Duncan Parnell would be ashamed of how we’ve allowed the bosses to rule with such impunity.

Personally, I’ve always believed that public holidays should be mandatory.

I think that it is incredibly important for the fabric of our society for us all to put down tools as citizens on specific days and all of us venture out into our amazing public spaces and be friendly with one another.

The importance of our civility in public towards each other, the importance of being tolerant while sharing the same space and the importance to actually stop working and enjoy doing nothing but spend time with our family, friends and whanau would do more to building that sense of nationhood than any other thing.

As citizens, we have earned the right to have days off, and we need to hold onto this right and understand it through its universal application that is so important. It’s the need to share our beaches and out door spaces together on these days that builds bonds between families and groups of people who would never otherwise meet in their busy 9-5, 5-9 plus the odd late shift lives.

For those public servants forced to work while the rest of us play, the media should be full of ‘spare a thought for’ type stories so that our public servants who must continue to staff essential services while the rest of us relax are given the respect and admiration they deserve for their selfless functions.

I would even go as far as demanding a new holiday – New Zealand Volunteers day. The idea being that there is one day a year we all universally have off to help volunteer in society all on the same day. It could be a mass planting, or cleaning up, or helping reach out to the elderly or migrant communities or anyone whose a bit different so we can all feel included.

I would also suggest that we make the date of the election a Wednesday and also make it a public holiday. We bitch so much in this country about not having a day we can celebrate as NZers because Pakeha feel so guilty about Waitangi Day, so why not search for that which binds us and celebrate that? Election Day should be a celebration because we are one of the few privileged countries around the planet that allows political leadership to change minus violence and repression. Our exercising of the right to vote peacefully is celebration in itself and making it a mid week public holiday would do more for participation rates than easily hacked online voting.

That sense of self identity and nationhood that we always whine about not being present during Waitangi Day takes effort and can’t simply be left up to the ‘free market’. The space where that national identity can take shape has to be universally applied in the form of mandatory public holidays and not left to be traded in by unscrupulous employers who if given half a chance would make ‘Hi Ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go’ the new National anthem.

The thousands of different interactions generated by us all respectfully sharing the same space together on set days would do more for our understanding of each other than a million disagreements ever could.

What is the point of being a citizen in a democracy if we can’t enjoy the leisure of spending time outside in this glorious country? Are we really all wage slaves? Is that what a modern democracy has been denigrated too?

‘I have a dream to work every hour of the day by a boss who is screwing me over’ isn’t particularly inspirational is it?

If we appreciated the importance of actually resting for the sake of our mental, emotional and physical health, we could hold our heads up on Labour Day once again with some pride.

Increasingly having independent opinion in a mainstream media environment which mostly echo one another has become more important than ever, so if you value having an independent voice – please donate here.

If you can’t contribute but want to help, please always feel free to share our blogs on social media


  1. MPs only work 159 days per year.

    Maybe the rest of us should be entitled to only work the same number of days too. Leaving the rest of the year available as work optional days for us all. Meaning that we can choose to work those days by agreement with our employer or not.

    • I think TMMFW, that those 159 days are when Parliament sits? All the other days, they are at work in their electorate – or should be. A bit like mistakenly observing that school teachers have more holidays than anyone else due to school holidays, but teachers, or their union, tell us that during this time, they’re busy preparing lessons or marking/assessing exams or assignments…..

      • As I said. By agreement, they can work with anyone or an employer by agreement for the remainder of the year. Which is usually 220 days per year in total.

        Teachers are stupid then? They’ve got one of the biggest unions in the country?
        They’re fools to themselves.

  2. When I was a child, back sometime shortly after the Punic Wars, NZ stood in the top three nations in terms of its standard of living. I can’t exactly recall but perhaps around that time it even achieved top position.

    What’s happened since? – 37 years of governance by the the right wing economic paradigm. And our current ranking?

    Neoliberalism is a lie.

    • Roger Douglas and the Labour party gave birth to neoliberalism and Act, Labour and the Nats are today continuning going down that path. Which is odd considering it died at the GFC.

  3. And if what you have said isnt enough, guess what popped up in my inbox this morning?

    An old-style Soviet worker’s poster with the words changed to

    “Make your labour count, join the Taxpayers Union today!”

    What a travesty. The Left is dead and buried.

  4. Welcome to the new reality of abusive employment. I’m classified as a temp employee work 40 hours plus a week for the last year, get no days in lieu, or sick leave and just to add insult to injury if a client wants to employ me full time they are liable for a fee of several thousand dollars.

      • For fuck sake.that always easier said. How about telling the employer to fuck off to another country if they can’t offer a living wage decent conditions and job security for all.

  5. We have now nine kiwi multi billionaires, we have a political system more resembling autocratic fascism and there are four foreign owned banks taking billions of dollars out of our relatively small agricultural primary industry economy in net profits annually. We have poverty, destitution and lunatic property-inflation bedeviling us at the behest of the four foreign owned banks and we buy, literally, into that as if we’ve had our minds hacked by an unseen and unseeable alien entity. We meander about in the streets as if in a trance with bags full of plastic shit bought because we’re in desperate search of a joyful frisson when good recreational drugs would be safer, not matter how addictive.
    On this day, Labour Day, we should re label it as Mindless, Pointless, Slavery Day.

  6. Head over to The Standard, to see their extensive coverage as a microcosm of what Labour is making of this celebration of working people and their rights:
    A shabby paragraph linking to some stuff they talked about some other time and currently a whole 4 comments mostly complaining about National.

    Working people are clearly despised by Labour and the Greens.

  7. This might be the last Labour Weekend if National had its way. They have made no secret that they, as well as ACT dont want Labour weekend to exist, or any other public holiday.

    They will also get rid of paid holidays and sick leave. All up in smoke.

  8. Yes, Democracy Day where all citizens get together in physical space vote and honestly count the paper vote is so awesomely meaningful compared to postal voting and next level compared to voting machines or apps.

  9. There will always be some workers who are overworked and others who are underworked. I’m not really buying into the implication that it’s a widespread problem in New Zealand at this particular day and age. My observations tell me that bosses take into consideration age, gender, and other necessary factors when it comes to the physical jobs. Age and gender do not necessarily restrict the jobs that employees can undertake.

    Conversely I see a trend of kiwi employers being fairer then ever before. A lot of businesses have increased the wages in recent times. In addition to this there seems to be more of a focus in many workplaces on ongoing training and team building. More stretching exercises are being carried out by crews of workmates before carrying out physically demanding tasks. A healthy work-life balance is being talked about more often at staff meetings.

    • Oh yes indeed. History has always showed that trusting bosses with workers welfare has always worked out well. Go to specsavers…

Comments are closed.