100th anniversary of the 8-hour workday

New special exhibition opening on May 5th, 2019.


Fighting for time

Make the workday shorter, and make life longer! The struggle for an 8-hour workday was for many years a very vital issue for the Danish workers.

It was the international demand, which the Labour Movement in all countries was to mark with demonstrations for eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest. The first of these took place on 1 May 1890. The Labour Movement revolted against a workday more than 10 hours long. Shorter workdays centred on the right to a better life.

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A splitting of the day into three parts, which made room for the worker’s physical health, education and culture and the possibility of contributing to one’s family. 6 May 1919, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions and the Confederation of Danish Employers settled on a collective agreement with an eight-hour workday. On 17 May, they signed it and the eight-hour workday was introduced in all trades except the agricultural and maritime trades from 1 January 1920.

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Reaching this point had been a long and hard struggle. In the Danish Parliament, Folketinget, the Social Democratic Party had worked towards securing the workday by law, taking the hard parliamentary road. At the building sites, bricklayers introduced the English weekend by leaving at 12 noon in the spring of 1918. In February 1919, the building trades began implementing the 8-hour workday and were locked out.

In the city, the inflamed opposition, the syndicalists in an echo from the November Revolution in Germany had agitated for overthrowing society through a general strike. At the negotiation table, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions had tried to reach an agreement between trade unions and employers.