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Home > Events > Labour Day / May Day

Labour Day / May Day

Topics : Labour Day

Labour_Day-May_Day_2020.pngCelebrate #IEUnionstrong online as Labour Day/May Day goes online for 2020

In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic, Labour Day/May Day celebrations on Monday, 4 May will be a little different this year – with IEUA-QNT members encouraged to celebrate all the ways we are #IEUnionstrong. 

The impact of the community response to the pandemic shows just how important unions are when it comes to securing decent wages and conditions, permanent jobs, and workplace health and safety.

While social distancing means union members, community supporters and workers won’t be able to march or gather as we do traditionally over this weekend, we can still put on our favourite IEUA-QNT shirt and get involved from home with family and friends.

Tell us what #IEUnionstrong means to you

With Labour Day/May Day celebrations taking place online this year, we are asking IEUA-QNT members to share what they feel makes us #IEUnionstrong.

It could be a key win during collective bargaining, or a moment of celebration – perhaps a favourite photo you may have from a previous Labour Day/May Day event.

We ask that you share this online via Facebook or Twitter using the hashtag #IEUnionstrong and tagging us via @ieuaqnt – we will be sharing posts through the day on Monday, 4 May to our union’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

A special Facebook frame to help celebrate #IEUnionstrong will also launch on our Facebook page on Saturday morning – another easy way you can proudly show solidarity this Labour Day/May Day long weekend.

Other Queensland and Northern Territory activities

In Queensland, the Queensland Council of Unions has a range of online activities planned for Labour Day in Queensland on Monday, 4 May including union songs to air on radio stations across the state along with dedicated radio ads introduced by union members.

Video messages from union, community and government leaders about the significance of Labour Day will be posted on social media.

In the Northern Territory, Unions NT will host a Facebook Live celebration at noon on Friday, 1 May 2020 from the balcony of the Unions NT building. 

Over 100 years of making a difference for members

Our union has achieved so much for members over our more than 100 years #IEUnionstrong.

In 2019 we marked our union's centenary with a special edition of Independent Voice which provided a comprehensive account of the key historical events, campaigns and member wins that made us 100 Years Union Strong.

View a copy of this very special double-page edition of the IV here.

Showing solidarity in a time of social distancing

IEUA-QNT Branch Secretary Terry Burke said while members wouldn’t be able to celebrate in person this year, the ability to show our solidarity as union members would shine through on social media in 2020.

“Whether you’ve been attending Labour Day celebrations for 25 years or you are a new graduate, we encourage all members and their families to join the celebrations online this year,” Terry said.

“Labour Day/May Day are a critical part of the fabric of our story as a union and provide an important opportunity to celebrate the wins our union has achieved for members over the last 101 years. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us all the importance of looking after each other and being there to provide support to others when they need it.

“That’s at the heart of what we do as a union, as a collective – we care, we show up and we look after each other.

“That’s what helped us achieve so much in the last 100 years and what will get us through the challenges we currently face.

“It’s what makes us #IEUnionstrong.”

Labour Day / May Day celebrations over the years

Labour Day in Queensland and May Day in the Northern Territory hold a significant place in union history.

The annual event is both an important reminder not to forget those who fought hard for decent and fair working conditions in Australia, as well as a celebration of their success and a chance to renew our commitment to ensuring a better future for all.

The foundation of a day to mark the struggle and achievement of workers stems from the May Day Haymarket riots in Chicago on 4 May 1884, which resulted in the death and wounding of some in attendance and the ultimate wrongful conviction and execution of four unionists.

In 1889, a proposal was made to establish a day to recognise the anniversary of the Chicago protests.

As a result, 1 May each year is known as International Workers’ Day.

Why we celebrate

Labour Day/May Day provides us an opportunity to gather each year to acknowledge and celebrate the struggle, collective action and strength shown by our fellow unionists throughout history leading to the improved wages and conditions we have today.

It is also a reminder that we must stay vigilant and continue to work as a collective to protect and improve those conditions going into the future.

2019 marked a special Labour Day/May Day celebration for our union, as we led the march together with the Finance Sector Union (FSU) in honour of our shared centenary year.

Marching in 2019 was Life Member Maria Heenan, who has been attending Labour Day celebrations with our union for 25 years.

“I am proud to attend the annual Labour Day events, and I encourage my fellow union members to join in celebrating the history and narrative around it,” Maria said.

“We celebrate Labour Day to remember and pay tribute to the proud tradition of workers campaigning for the conditions that we enjoy today.

“Our attendance is a testament to that sacrifice and shared sense of fairness; it reminds people that we must never give in to oppression in the workplace and we need to stand our ground.

“There is an increasing need at the moment to draw attention to the politics of fear and greed that work against us, and Labour Day offers an opportune time for us to unite against this.” 

Click here to view highlights from 2019 celebrations.

Eight hour working day

The origins of the celebration of Labour Day/May Day in Australia began in 1856, when stonemasons at the University of Melbourne marched to Parliament House to push for an eight hour working day.

As a result, an agreement was reached with their employers for a 48 hour week and this led to Australian workers’ right to an eight hour work day.

A victory march was held in Melbourne in May of that year and each year after that.

In 1856, the new work regulations were recognised in NSW, followed by Queensland in 1858 and South Australia in 1873.

The Shearers' Strike

shearers_strike.png

In Queensland, the antecedent of Labour Day began in Barcaldine in 1891 after the Shearer’s Strike was declared in response to the actions of the Pastoralists’ Federal Council who sought to increase profits by employing nonunion shearers on individual contracts for lower rates of pay.

Union workers established strike camps in towns near shearing sheds, with one of the largest camps near Barcaldine.

On 1 May 1891, more than 1,300 striking workers marched through the town as part of the dispute – marking a historic event for Australian workers.

In 1901 the first Monday of each May was declared a public holiday in Queensland and was formally recognised as Labour Day from 1912.

In the Northern Territory, the celebration is known as May Day, and is also marked by a public holiday on the first Monday in May of each year.

Authorised by Terry Burke, Independent Education Union of Australia – Queensland & Northern Territory Branch, Brisbane.