Article Title

On Winning the 40 Hour Week


The 40-hour week was approved by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on 8 September 1947, to take effect from 1 January 1948. The 40-hour campaign, the 35-hour campaign that followed in the late 1950s, the 44-hour campaign that preceded these, and union attempts between all three to fix the working week at either 30 or 33 hours, were parts of a long movement for the codification and reduction of Australian working hours that began in the mid 1850s with struggles by workers to establish the principle of the 8-hour day. Stonemasons in Sydney and Melbourne gained the first successes during 1855 and 1856. At the time skilled workers in these cities generally worked 10 hours per day Monday to Friday with 8 hours on Saturday. For other workers it was longer; shop assistants, for example, worked 12–14 hours per day. During the period 1913-1963, which embraces much of this campaigning, hours, leave and wages were the greatest causes of time lost in Australian industrial disputes, while rating second to issues relating to physical working conditions and managerial policy as causes of industrial conflict.