1851 Oct Campaign begun by William Griffin (a painter) to work shorter hours on a Saturday.

1856 Attempt to introduce a Masters & Servants Act. Provided for instant dismissal and imprisonment for up to four weeks for "any misconduct", including being absent when required.

1857 Nov Campaign launched by William Griffin (a painter) to introduce an 8-hour day to Auckland, which was lagging behind the rest of New Zealand.

1863 May Branch of the English Engineers' Union started in Auckland.

1873 Employment of Females Act passed.   Restricted hours women could be required to work to no more than eight hours, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m.   The act was amended in 1875 to prohibit the employment of children under ten years of age, but there were no enforcement provisions and the act was largely ignore.   Legislation passed to give women employed in factories five statutory holidays per year.

1876 Apr First Trades and Labour Council formed in the Clanricarde Hotel in Auckland. Made up of small unions of bakers, printers, shipwrights, painters, and tailors, as well as local branches of two British unions: the Engineers' and Carpenters'. Total membership was just 158, but that didn’t stop the Daily Southern Cross paper from screaming the headline: "The tyranny of Labour is threatening to frighten capital."

1880 Jan 3 First national strike. Operators at the Electric Telegraph Department went on strike, because they had their overtime allowances cut and the working day lengthened by one and a half hours. Strike was broken by the 8th of January and the men were forced to sign an apology for striking, and were fined as well as losing their pay for the days off. Blacklisted by the government here as well as in Australia.

1885 Jan 8 First National Congress of Unions held in Dunedin. Delegates represented about 2500 union members.

1886 Our union came into being when the newly formed Amalgamated Shearers Union of Australasia sent three organisers to New Zealand to enrol members and set up branches. A special effort was made to recruit Maori members, who were highly represented in the shearing industry (the rules were even printed in Maori). Membership in the first year stood at 2300.

1887 Seaman's Union started. Jubilee Shipping Line to defeat anti-union practices at Northern Steam Ship Company.   The NSSC backed down in 1888 and agreed to unionise the work force.

1889 Maritime Council of New Zealand formed

1890 Aug 26 Maritime Council called a general seaman's strike, which was soon joined by other young unions. Starting very enthusiastically, the weakness of the unions (many of them only a year old, with little experience, and less resources) soon became apparent. Unfortunately, the strike was soon broken, largely by scab labour.

First Labour Day celebration held in Auckland (addressed by Samuel Parnell).

Sweating Commission reported that there was no sweated labour in New Zealand, but that women and child workers were exploited.   Two commission members dissented from the decision on the grounds that the exploitation constituted sweated labour. 

1890 Oct 18 First issue of the "Tribune" (newspaper printed during the strike).

1890 Oct 28 Maritime Council had been asking trades councils to celebrate the 28th of October as a public holiday to commemorate the date it was founded, and to campaign in favour of an 8-hour day. It was first observed on this date, shortly before the strike ended.

1890 Nov 10 Maritime Council officially ended the dispute, and the employers took the opportunity to put the boot in. As an example, At Port Lyttleton, an organisation called the Lumpers and Wharf Labourers Association was set up by the local merchants. Of its committee of nine, five, including the chairman, were employers, and only members of the association could get work. Thec ouncil itself, and every member union, with the sole exception of the Seaman's Union, ceased to exist shortly afterward. The first national confrontation between Capital and Labour ended in the total defeat of the unions.

1892 Department of Labour was formed from the old Bureau of Industries under William Pember Reeves. That Department of Labour (unlike the current one) saw its role in life as protecting the rights of working people. Number two in the department was James Mackay, previously an organiser with the Knights of Labour, and John Lomas, who had led the Miners' Union during the Maritime Strike.

1893  Women get the vote.   Richard Seddon (Liberal) becomes premier.

1894 Our union led the way with the appointment of Mrs Aileen Garmson as secretary of the Christchurch branch of the Workers' Union.

1895 Jan 1 The Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Act came into force, which was to have huge influence over unions for the next 80 years. In simple terms, if a union registered under the act, and could not settle an argument with an employer, the Arbitration Court ruled on the matter. This worked well, so long as the ruling was in favour of the workers. That was not always the fact, of course, and the downside was that no strike action was allowed in those circumstances.

1899 Government passed the Labour Day Act, which established the second Wednesday in October as a general holiday for everyone.

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