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Tariana Turia: Beehive Chat 28 October 2002

Tariana Turia: Beehive Chat 28 October 2002

Beehive Chat 28 October 2002

For most of us, Labour Day is a long weekend when many whanau plan to hold unveilings and other hui, so people can travel from around the country.

But we should remember that Labour Day commemorates the introduction of a standard 40-hour working week. It was a major victory for working people.

The principle that was established was a living wage for 40 hours work - enough to support not only the individual worker, but the family. The 40-hour week recognises that families need time together for recreation.

We must uphold that principle.

Recent studies show that most workers actually work more than 40 hours each week. But more importantly, most families struggle to make ends meet on a single wage.

More and more mothers are working. Workers are taking on more than one job. Children are left at home alone. We must not let families slip back to the situation before the 40-hour week became law.

Of course, the pattern of work and family life was very different then. The nuclear family grew out of the industrial revolution in England, when rural villages were broken up by the enclosure of common lands. Without access to the commons, where they could grow food, graze animals or hunt small game, the people were forced to leave their villages to seek work in the mines, mills and factories.

As their extended family support networks broke down, urban workers became wage slaves in order to support a wife and children - toiling under inhuman conditions for greedy employers who made ever-increasing demands.

The industrial revolution was, in effect, the first wave of colonisation, when people became units of production in a capitalist economy. Their ties to land and family, and their village way of life, broke down under the pressures of the wage economy. As it spread to Scotland and Ireland, mass emigration resulted.

This was the British economy that was brought to Aotearoa.

The effects on our whanau are well known. As our lands were lost, and our people moved in search of paid work, our economic, social and cultural support networks started to break down.

Our people have resisted these pressures in every way we can. The way we use the Labour Day holiday to get together and restore the bonds of whanau is just one example.

While we remember Labour Day, and defend our rights as workers, tangata whenua are also determined to retain our rangatiratanga - our self-sufficiency and autonomy - and economic development is a key part of our plans for self-determination.

ENDS

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