35 comments on “Labour Day, 1914.

  1. As I contemplate a Monday in the office, I highly commend all the efforts that went into winning workers an 8 hour day… someone should let large corporate law firms in on it 😉
    In NSW we have to wait until October for our Labour Day public holiday. I hope it is a little cooler and housework at a bare minimum so you guys can enjoy your day off 🙂

    • Yes, the eight hour day is really not a universal thing is it? Oh well, imagine how much worse it could be without these old unions having made a stand back then.

      By the way, it is NOT cooler and I found myself doing a ridiculous amount of washing and stuff outside before it got too hot. Hmmm… so much for a day off!

      • Which reminds me (I hope this doesn’t sound overly stupid) but do many homes in Australia have Central AC? Picking up from causal reading it seems most either have fans or window units. Is this true of most?

        • We would all love ac but electricity is very expensive here*. A lot of people had water-cooled units but in recent years reverse cycle split system units have become very popular.
          When I was a kid more people had those old type that poke through a wall or window but they went out of fashion when the home renovation fad took over.

          I still think most people don’t actually have ac, and in the states where hot is the norm they tend to have different styles of houses than we do down here in the cooler states. The style appropriate to the hot north is called the Queenslander http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Queenslander_(architecture), and the type they are currently filling housing estates with in Victoria (in the south) is like this; http://www.metricon.com.au/melbourne/homes . Please note that my house in Victoria looks NOTHING like these! 🙂

          Your question is very pertinent! When I was listening to the radio this morning they were suggesting that if this is the new normal down here we should start building Queenslander style houses rather than the ground huggers we have started preferring. My own house is above ground with air flow underneath, and is north facing with no large windows in the east or west ends, which is very important for avoiding the sun shining in during the hottest part of the day.
          We have cold winters that don’t happen in the north of Australia so we need a compromise between a house that is good at staying warm and one that is good at staying cool. I wonder if a few warm summers might spark a new style of architecture down here?

          *I am not sure how it compares to worldwide prices but in the last 12 months it has repeatedly risen to the point where it has actually become a political issue.

          • This is fascinating! I had up until a couple of years ago, always thought that America and Australia aren’t much different in many respects. But the differences are vast! That such care goes into building the homes to help ward off heat is extremely interesting.

            My impression: The Queenslander homes looks like the Pacific Island plantation homes in the movies. The Victorian homes look like the homes in the Philippines (and maybe some Florida homes).

            Do excuse my incessant questions, but I’ve always had a fascination with Australia and who better to ask than an Aussie! Anywho, looking at the prices of homes may I say—they are ASTRONOMICAL! Why is this? For instance this home: http://www.realestate.com.au/property-house-vic-northcote-113159335

            $450,000 for a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom home. Now keeping in mind the size, etc this looks like a home a person could by for $30,000 here. Now you know why I’m shocked.

          • $30,000!!! Wow!!! Unless you go out into the bush you couldn’t even buy an empty block of land on the side of a cliff for $30,000 these days and even then it would be doubtful! You couldn’t even start house shopping these days unless your budget was close to $300,000.

            I have no idea why houses are so expensive but I do know that real estate in Sydney is even more expensive than Melbourne. I guess it is that ‘you never lose money on bricks and mortar’ attitude that keeps people buying property when the world’s finances seem a bit wobbly. Fortunately we haven’t had the same kinds of financial problems that other parts of the world have, so prices keep rising.

            There are properties around here which are fairly cheap but they are disappearing by the day. When we bought our house (15 years ago) $100,000+ was a big budget house in this area and now it is not unusual for properties to be worth well over $500,000. If only we’d had a decent budget when we bought ours we’d be rich now!
            Here is a cheap (?) house in a nearby town, and it’s biggest claim to fame is that it has nice views and is walking distance to town, only 1 bedroom though! http://andrewmcmath.com.au/real-estate/property/632738/for-sale/house/vic/warburton-3799/12-webb-street/ . Ridiculous.

            I think the average Australian wage is around $70,000 a year and I don’t know how they afford the mortgage repayments. They keep calling it a ‘real estate bubble’ and predicting the end of it but as the years go on the prices are still high.

            These new housing estates that are so popular really don’t give people much of a chance to build homes that have good sun orientation or any other things that make it easy to stay cool, they build big blocky houses on small blocks of land with strict planning regulations, so you might be facing the afternoon sun with your big windows and there is nothing you can do about it. In places where people have larger blocks and less planning restrictions etc they have far more choice of how to live.

            The Queenslander homes do look like Islander homes, they have similar tropical climates so it is obviously a good design. I have noticed that a few people are building homes like that these days down here too, a good idea I think.

            You might be interested in this page about the cost of living in Melbourne I found when I was looking for the average rental prices. http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/city_result.jsp?country=Australia&city=Melbourne .

          • That’s amazing. How can anyone afford that? For $500,000 I could buy a mansion with maybe even a pool! Noticed there isn’t much difference between the AUD and USD.

            Now about that home you linked; true there is a gorgeous view but $200,000 is steep (what an understatement). Speaking only for my home state, since prices vary across the US, a person could that same home for under $10,000 here. This fixer-upper home for instance (in a not so great part of town you will keep in mind, however) is $7,500 with 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom. http://www.realtor.com/realestateandhomes-detail/1732-S-Kerth-Ave_Evansville_IN_47714_M46198-44657

            I was browsing homes in Queensland—they’re somewhat cheaper. Other than it being hotter in the North is there any other reason for the lower prices?

            Had a look at that last link. The cost of living in Melbourne, is way out of my league.

          • The cost of living comfortably here is way out of the league of many people. 😦 Can I ask how much a loaf of bread or litre of milk is there?
            As I said, the average wage is $70,000 (although as you know, being average means some lucky people earn way more and many earn less) We don’t have tipping here either, so what you earn is what you earn!
            Aren’t the rents phenomenal? Thank goodness we have a small mortgage for our small house, we couldn’t afford to rent a hovel at those prices!

            We are in the throes of a massive DIY home renovation fad these days so the majority of the population is doing their best to upgrade their low-value house to something in the $400,000 range. Luxury kitchens and bathrooms, home theatres, indoor/outdoor living, outdoor entertainment areas etc etc. At times inner suburb boundaries have been moved to give a better address to small areas, instantly upping the value of all the houses affected!

            One day there won’t be low priced properties anywhere and then the property bubble will burst. Maybe then WE can afford the luxury house for our small house price! 😉

            I can’t imagine house prices being as small as they are in that link, $7,500 is less than I paid for my second-hand car! (But I bet that is a whole other discussion!!) Do most people there rent or is home ownership a big thing like it is here?

            I am not sure why properties are cheaper in QLD. Many people move up there for the warmer weather and the …ummm… more relaxed lifestyle 🙂
            Queenslanders call us cockroaches because we come up from down below like we are sneaking in from under the floorboards and we always say we have. to. talk. slow-ly. and finish each sentence with ‘ay’ so they understand us 😀

          • It depends on where one shops. Bread at places like Walmart anywhere runs from $1 (white) up to $1.75 (wheat). That’s lower end brands. The bigger brands are more expensive. The bread stores are usually much more reasonable and half the time they’re giving away bread that’s about to expire. Milk is sold in 1/2 gallon (1.89 litres) and 1 gallon (3.79 litres). It has been going up but one can usually get a gallon for $2.

            Yeah, the rent prices are awful. How do immigrants make it there? No tipping?! Waiters/Waitresses must have it hard…

            Haha! Yes I was looking at the prices of used cars too. EXPENSIVE!

            Most people I/we know own their own homes. However apartments are springing up everywhere. A couple of years back, rent was expensive (not near as much as the Melbourne prices, but still considerable for this city). $750 (no zeroes are missing 😉 ) was good for a 2 bedroom, one bathroom home. What is the minimum wage in Australia? It is $7.25 here.

            Regarding Queenslanders—funny, you all have regional “prejudices” (for lack of a better word) too. 😉 Another way Australia is opposite. Here Northerners tend to talk faster plus it’s colder in the North, as opposed to the South. But just looking at some of the homes in Queensland they look a little more “close to home” in terms of style.

          • The minimum full-time wage for an adult here is $15.96/hr according to the fair work ombudsman website. Now I know that, on average, workers here only get around twice as much as they do there it makes the real estate/living prices seem even worse! Hmmm… I think I might do a post about this in future! Comparative real estate, and bread and milk prices around the world! 🙂

            Waiters/waitresses would get the same, that is why we don’t have tipping (we do have it in cafes unobtrusively, usually a jar at the till. It isn’t expected though and most never tip.) Here, immigrants working as waiters isn’t as stereotypical as it is in the US, you are more likely to be served by a uni student or musician. (I heard on the radio the other day that Melbourne has the most cafe seats in a city in the world and was not surprised, we love our cafes!)

            I think amusing regional predjudices are a universal thing aren’t they? There is also a standing joke that Tasmanians all have a scar on the side of their neck where they took off the extra head 😉

          • P.S. The wages (and taxes) here are a scale, so not everyone gets the same minimum wage. Here is a link to the fair work website that says at this very moment.

            “Currently the full-time minimum wage is $15.96 per hour or $606.40 per week. This means that most employees in the national system shouldn’t get less than this.
            Casuals covered by the national minimum wage get an extra 23% ($19.63 per hour).”


          • Oooo! I’d relish reading such a post!

            Quite right, regional prejudices are universal. I had heard even the Germans have it.

            Thanks for answering all of my questions and supplying the additional information, it’s much appreciated! 😀

          • You’re welcome. I was interested in hearing your side of the conversation. 😀 Catherine (who lives in another part of Australia) chimed in with her own comments below last night, another interesting perspective!

  2. I’m not big on modern trade unions, but boy do I applaud those old ones! Hope you have a wonderful, labour-free day Metan… I know I will. 😉

    • Yes, the modern ones seem like bullies only helping the officials, not the workers. Back in those days it really was ‘for the workers’.

      No labour-free here 😦 After I took care of those not-so-few jobs around the garden before it got too hot it WAS too hot! Am now sitting with my feet up watching the kids playing their hilarious new Wii game. A much better afternoon! 😀

      • lol – I’m glad you got to put your feet up eventually. I did my gardening early too. The rest of the day has been a write-off. They’re forecasting a change Wednesday morning…. Just two more nights and one more day to go.

        • The Man and I were just discussing what winter might bring. Do you think it might be a warm winter, or will things balance out and this record heat will be followed by an extra cold winter?
          On behalf of my garden I hope it is not a really cold one!
          Come on cool change!!

  3. I love the idea of having a holiday to celebrate something as important as workers winning an 8 hour day! Perhaps we should have a few banners like the ones in the photo in the Moomba parade!

    • It is perfect isn’t it, a day off in celebration of having less work 😀

      I haven’t been to the Moomba parade for many years. I wonder if there are ever any Labour Day themed floats anymore? Maybe we should do one next year, a campaign for the national re-institution of the iron-clad eight hour day. Most people work more than that don’t they?

      Imagine how happy most retail workers would be to not have to spend all those long weekends working in shopping centres. We might have better labour laws now, but we also have 24-hour shopping and Sunday trading, things that never existed back in those Labour Union days!
      People want to work less hours, they just don’t want anyone else to have time off when they want to go shopping! 😀

  4. What a fun post metan!!! … South Australia’s Labour Day (8hrs day) long weekend is the first week in October. LOVE the Birdman Rally!!! … Our silly buggers (scusie…) jump off the Brighton jetty into the sea (but not as part of Labour Day) Has had it’s time of being “in hiatus” too.
    Love your 1914 photo… wish that as the Federal Election approaches, Voters would remember that it’s the Unions (represented politically by the Labor Party) that got them decent working conditions… and the Unions are the representatives of the workers. phew!!! You can see that I was teethed, on these matters at the knee of my Father and Grandfather… hardworking Wharfies at Port Adelaide. Yep, “rusted on”.
    HA HA HA!!! Off my “soapbox” now 😀 …

  5. Just read the comments above metan and hope you don’t mind me adding my perspective and a South Australian one, at that. Firstly re: Trade Unions. My family, and I, have always been members of a Union… gone out “on strike”, if necessary… marched, lobbied, demonstrated, been abused, missed out on pay etc… to get increases in wages and many unionists get SO ANGRY that non-unionists get the same pay increases/ conditions we fight for… I won’t go into why the Unions agree to this. So, it’s not only the “old unionists” that “went out on a limb”. I used to get SO mad at the mis- representations of Union activites by the major newspapers… but that’s not surprising 😦

    re: J.G’s question about Central A/C. South Australia has very HOT & DRY summers. (hottest state in hottest continent etc) and a preferred, and very common form of cooling is ducted Evaporative Air-Conditioning. i.e. a Unit which sits on the roof and blows the air through pads fed with water and down ducting into every room in the house. I have a duct right over my bed 🙂 The cost, 2 years ago, for 5 cooling ducts (3 bedrooms, lounge, kitchen/dining) was less than $3,000. Is also very cheap to run… far cheaper than those run by electricity. The only air cons, stuck in windows here, are very old and there very few of them. Don’t think they’re manufactured any more. There still are some of the older cooling only A/C’s that are fitted into the wall. I live in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide, is a very low Socio- economic area (some like to call us “bogans” 😦 ) … but I don’t know anyone who has ONLY a fan. Although, because of the price of electricity, some will delay turning the Air Con on for as long as possible and use heaps of other stragies to keep cool in the meantime.

    Regarding house prices… they differ HUGELY from state to state and here, in South Australia, the prices people pay in sone other States of Oz both astound & horrify us… e.g. $500,000 would buy you a home way above the average… and in a “high class” suburb. A comfortable 3 bedroom brick/ brick veneer home in my “neck of the woods” costs between about $160,000 to $250,000… and we’re not all rapists and murderers, in the Northern suburbs of Adelaide, despite what you read in the papers. HA HA HA!!! 😀 It’s about the same in the Southern suburbs and the “wannabees” , paying HUGE mortgages, look down on them too.

    Now, although house prices are higher in the Eastern States, so are their wages. When you look at the average Australian wage, that is averaged across the whole of the country so is not representative of an Average wage in every State 😦 I sure know this because when our Teacher’s Union was battling the Govt for a wage just a bit closer to that of teachers in Sydney the answer always was that the “cost of living” including housing was much higher in Sydney/ Melbourne… hence the higher wage.

    I sure know what you mean J.G. I too thought that the USA and Oz were very similar until I went to live in Seattle, USA, in 1994. Hooley Dooley!!! In more ways than I can count on both hands, both feet and those of my nearest neighbours 🙂 … Just using the example of my job as a teacher. I couldn’t believe how well paid they were and the most amazing working conditions. e.g. NO yard duty… I had a full time “teacher’s aide” in my room for a “disabled student”, L-O-N-G holidays, NO parent/ teacher interviews after school hours or on weekends (parents were expected to take time of work, during the day, to attend), specialist teachers for such things as, music, gym, science, computers in Elementary (Junior Primary/Infant and Primary) …

    NO Sports Day duties at all… in fact I got into “trouble” and was “warned” for going out to watch, and cheer on, my students competing in their “Field Day” events. Was told that “their Union” would see that as “breaking down working conditions” . I was amazed that on the one occasion (in 12 months) that Unionists in my USA School/ School district took Industrial Action for higher pay, the parents were out there on the roadside too waving placards for people to “toot” if they agreed that teacher’s deserved more pay. Was shocked that the teachers, in one School District ih Seattle, were “on strike” for the first 6 weeks of the new School Year because their wage claims had not been met and the biggest shock of all was that, instead of parents turning against teachers which is the norm in Oz, the parents were actually supportive and demanding better pay for their children’s teachers.

    Lastly I have to say that I thought I was in “7th Heaven” when at the end of the school day I had personal time, time for me and loved going to the cheap movie session at 4pm, after work, instead of lumping home a whole lot “marking/ lesson prep” to be done at home… and what a JOY

    • Interesting to read about evaporative cooling being so popular in SA. You guys have much dryer heat there (when we stay in SA my hair always goes straight, I LOVE it!), so they work really well, here they can make a horribly humid day even more humid. Using fans and holding off on the ac until the last minute seems to be a universal thing though!

      What? You mean north of Adelaide isn’t bogan central! Oh no!…. prejudices crumbling…… 😉 Due to her husbands job my friend recently moved into a part of SA that sees itself as rather nice, the first thing she said (in a horrified tone) was “Oh my god, the mums all say Lay-go not Lego!” It is all about address isn’t it? 😉

      When we moved into our valley 15 years ago nobody had any idea of where it was and you could easily get a nice little house for under $100,000 (like we did). Fast forward to now and it is the wine-famous ‘Yarra Valley’ and and I occasionally recognize people from the tv in the street on the weekend. During the week we are a low socio-economic area, but judging by the popularity of the cafes of Warby I expect the level rises considerably on the weekend! 😉

      Regardless of what we see in the real estate window the same old bogans are still living in the same old houses, those old houses are now worth about $200,000 more that’s all. Once we became fashionable out of town people started buying old properties for very little and turning them into ego filled edifices, driving the prices out of the range of those of us who lived here before!

      I hate the thought of having a large mortgage. We couldn’t afford holidays or any of those other things that make life worthwhile. Living in a small house makes it possible for me to leisurely drop the kids off, pick them up, be there when they are sick and not have to rush off for work because we need the money (although more would be nice!) 🙂

      re: the wages, I added the link to the cost of living link in the comment to JG because of that very thing. Our wages are good but the cost of living is high. It is all comparative isn’t it. I’ve noticed that when we holiday in the outback groceries and fuel are ridiculously expensive but I bet the wages in those places aren’t above average. 😦

    • @Catherine: The cooling system sounds economical. It works pretty well then?

      It’s good to know (and less intimidating) that the housing prices differ by area (like here I guess and everywhere else for that matter).

      Your account of differences between a teachers job in the US and in Australia is mind-boggling! It makes it sound like American teachers have comfortable jobs compared to what what you all do. You’re right of course, that it depends on where schools are located in the US. I could be wrong but I thought that here locally the teacher’s aide had Yard Duty (or something akin to it). Guess it differs.

      @Metan: Well said. Who wants an expensive home when the owner(s) is/are always away at work trying to pay off the mortgage. They’d never have time to live in it! It would be like having an expensive hotel room.

      I would like to note that in Alaska and places out West the States were giving away land to be homesteaded. It’s the pioneers all over again! 😆

      • Do people really take up the offer of free land or are the properties in remote places? Free land sounds pretty good to me! 🙂

        An expensive hotel room is a good description of some of those luxury homes. I know people who have huge homes and properties, with every extra you could imagine, but work all the time, their kids spending holidays in care. I wonder if it is worth it?

        When we hear news reports about the US economy and people who can’t afford their mortgages just walking away from their homes and leaving them to the bank it isn’t something we Aussies can imagine. Now, hearing the prices of your real estate, it is less of a dramatic ending. Here people pay off their home for 20+ years and owning your own home is something of an ‘Australian Dream’. Just handing it back to the bank would almost be considered a crime against humanity! 😀

        • Very few, I would think. You guessed right, the free land is usually located out in the boonies or very rural towns (which isn’t all that bad. The country is very appealing. The wealthy must think so too as mansions are continually being built far outside of town). The way gas keeps going up not many people would be able to afford it.

          No it isn’t worth it, unfortunately I don’t think many people realize it until it’s too late.

          I can well imagine it being thought of as a crime! Does it happen very often? Considering how much money and effort goes into their properties it has to be terribly disappointing to have to walk away from it. Foreclosures are somewhat common here as one can well guess by the amount of repo homes that go on the market all the time.

          • That free land would be our dream come true 🙂 Live in our normal house during the week and have a remote holiday house!

            Here I am sure a percentage of people lose their houses for financial reasons but I have the impression (via the media) that in the US if you default on your home loan you lose the lot. Here if you lose the house to the bank the house will be sold and, once the bank takes what you owe, you get the rest of the money back (if there is any left of course!).
            I think the banks help you a bit here with home loans if they start going wrong. We hate the banks, it is a national sport to hate any form of authority, but the average mortgage is a lot of money so it is probably in their best interests to help people sort it out rather than go through the legal stuff to chuck them out and start again. Plus, the longer they help you the more interest accrues and the more you owe them in the end….. 😉

      • Sorry to be slow to reply J.G. Yep, works beautifully because we have a very dry climate and the extra moisture in the area is glorious 🙂 … and it’s economical. Good thing that I have an Bodhran (Irish Drum) purchased in Ireland cos it’s very tight, and playing in a hall with evap aircond, dampens it beautifully… whereas the Aussie made ones would go all limp, soggy and unplayable HA HA HA!!!

        Yep I thought I was in 7th Heaven working in Seattle and may have accepted the offers from 2 school districts if not for a gorgeous family back in Oz… Sadly my exchange teacher had a terrible time of it working in my classroom, with my working conditions 😦 … but really she didn’t have to pay ME out by creating all sorts of probs for me, on my return… but that’s another story 😉

  6. ooops… I am finishing off… Just wanted to say what a JOY it was to have children sent home for 3 days to give us time to tot up their “marks” and write reports… instead of that as yet another school/ work task to be fitted into the end of a busy working day. Oh, and we didn’t have lunch time staff/ curriculum meetings, nor after school either. One staff meeting once a week before the start of school… and we also had an afternoon tea break and remember NO YARD DUTY… so it actually was a “break” : time for a sit down, cuppa and a chat with adults.

    In closing… must say that every School District in the USA is different and conditions/ pay for teachers differs widely across the states. I was told that teachers, in the South States, had much poorer conditions than those working with me up North in Seattle. I can only say how things were for me back in 1994 and they were SO vastly different than anything I was at all familiar with.

    OK… that’s all from me… and more than enough I reckon you’ll all be thinkin’… 😀
    Cheerio, folks.

    • Anyway, about teachers conditions….. NO yard duty?! Parents taking time off to involve themselves with the kids education? No report nights? What on earth do the teachers do with their time?!

      I have friends and family who are teachers and whenever I hear people suggest that it is a cushy job with lots of holidays it makes me grind my teeth. There have been a few teachers strikes lately and they do their best not to disrupt the kids and the parents but they don’t seem to be getting any results. They do what is probably the most important job for very little pay under extreme conditions! Maybe more extreme measures are called for…

      The school my kids go to is small but excellent, and the standard expected from the teachers is high. I think they should be paid far more than they are! I think it is the after hours stuff that makes it worse and leaves those who don’t see it convinced that teaching is an easy career. Starting at 9 and knocking off at 3.30? Easy! Looking after kids? Easy! HA!
      Our school has working bees on some weekends, Science night, open night, movie night, sports after school (3 times a week), and other various information nights… I suspect that some of the teachers don’t actually ever leave.

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