English-born carpenter Samuel Parnell (front row, centre) sits in the middle of the committee set up to make the eight-hour day standard for all occupations and workplaces. In 1890 the annual holiday of Labour Day was introduced to celebrate Parnell’s historic refusal, 50 years earlier, to work more than eight hours a day without paid overtime. His ability to negotiate this in 1840 reflected his powerful bargaining position – in early New Zealand there were few carpenters and many people who wanted houses built.
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