Wednesday, November 16, 2005
The past can inform the present and shape the future
Chris Haywood mentioned yesterday at The National Day of Community Protest the Eight Hour Day Movement and its historic relationship to Melbourne. The picture above is of a banner in Melbourne in 1856. The Eight Hour Day Movement was integral to establishment of the union movement in Australia. We have moved far from the eight hour day. There has been the demand for a 35 hour week; the introduction of twelve hour days and two weeks on and one week off and flying in and out to oil rigs and mine sites (in the latter case there once would have been whole communities instead). Some workers earn big money from the lfly-in fly-out set-up but it involves time away from families and communities. Most of the people working these hours are men so there are absentee fathers and families held together by lonely women. Now the absent father has been with us forever: sailors at sea, drovers of cattle, economic downturns driving fathers away from home to keep things together. The difference at the beginning of the 21st century is that we are counting the cost. The Australian Christian Lobby has even made connections with loss of family time leading to youth suicide. Such input from the Christian area has long been conspicuous by its absence but, though late, such comment is welcome. There is also a diminution of the social capital of the community as society moves away from the the collective and becomes more individualistic. This is why I have been predicting for some years that eventually there will be marches and parades demanding an eight hour day: eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation, eight hours of rest.