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This town is a Union Town: May Day

28 Apr 2022

"Without Unions in the Hunter, this region simply wouldn’t be what it is today."

Hunter Workers will be celebrating International Workers Day this Sunday at their annual May Day Rally to take place at Nobby’s Beach Park.

The rally marks 128 years of May Day celebrations in the Hunter Region, beginning in 1894, and 91 years since the rally became an official annual event.

May Day, historically known as Eight Hour Day, commemorates the achievements and contributions of workers past and present.

May Day also marks a day of protest and political demonstration, nationally and internationally, seeing workers voice their demands.

It originated as a day to celebrate the achievement of the eight-hour day for workers, a struggle that was first won in Melbourne 1856 and sparked a movement across the world.

Newcastle and the Hunter region boasts a rich Union history going back as far as the 1850s which is reflected in several high-profile strike actions and the formation of the origins of Hunter Workers 152 years ago, the Eight Hour Committee.

In 1869 the Eight Hour Committee was formed in Maitland and Newcastle, and over many years was central to the struggle for the 40-hour week, workplace health and safety, protecting the local environment, and fighting for a decent living wage in the region.

Hunter Workers will march May 1st at 10:30am from Newcastle Museum and end at Nobby’s Beach Park, where workers and families will gather to celebrate the achievements of workers and enjoy carnival rides, food, and entertainment.

Leigh Shears, Hunter Workers Secretary:

“We have one of the oldest and richest Union histories of any region in Australia.

Without Unions in the Hunter, this region simply wouldn’t be what it is today.

This May Day we remember and celebrate Hunter workers who fought hard for the working conditions we enjoy and commend those who continue to do so.

May Day is also an opportunity for workers to have their voices heard, and to consider the future.

Workers are under constant attack by the Morrison government, who have officially set butchering industrial relations laws on the agenda if re-elected.

Instead of suppressing wages, the government could be investing in workers by creating the legal and industrial environment that supports wage increases and secure jobs.”

[Image: Eight Hour Day Parade (today called May Day), Hunter Street, Newcastle, NSW, [1890]
Image by Ralph Snowball, from the Ralph Snowball Collection, courtesy of Special Collections, the University of Newcastle, Australia.]

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