Equal pay

The strike that shook Glasgow to the core

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In the final part of her series on women workers in struggle, Jane Hardy talks to women who organised and took part in a successful strike over equal pay.

An explosion of anger from women council workers in Glasgow culminated in a two day strike in October 2018 that closed down the city. The women had run out of patience when the Scottish National Party (SNP) minority council failed to deliver on its promise of rectifying equal pay cases that had lasted over a decade.

The fight for equal pay

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In the first of a three-part series, Jane Hardy sets out the history of women’s struggle for equal pay, which is longer than you might think. In the next installments she will look at more recent battles.

Despite the huge expectations raised by the Equal Pay (1970) and Sex Discrimination (1975) Acts, four decades later the gains for women in the workplace are mixed. Between 1975 and 1995 only 2,000 cases under the equal pay legislation were taken to court. By the 21st century it became clear that discriminatory pay for women was alive and kicking. The restructuring of pay grades in local authorities in the name of equality had, in some cases, left women with worse pay than men.

Time's up for unequal pay

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48 years after the Equal Pay Act, companies are still finding ways to pay women less, as Carrie Gracie’s case against the BBC revealed. Anna Blake investigates the complexities of gender and pay today.

In this centenary year of the Representation of the People’s Act — when some women, those aged over 30 who met specific property qualifications, were first granted the right to vote — much has been made of how far we have come.

Remade in Dagenham

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Ford's women

The 1968 Ford women's strike was a landmark on the way to equal pay. Sabby Sagall recalls the dispute and its effects.

On 7 June 1968 women sewing-machinists at Dagenham took on the mighty Ford Company over sex discrimination in job grading. The strike had a huge impact, forcing Ford’s to its knees and feeding the growing calls for women’s equality in the workplace and beyond.

The 2010 film of the dispute, Made in Dagenham, has now been adapted into a stage musical starring Gemma Arterton as the worker who leads the strike.

Live debates played out on stage

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Made in Dagenham

Julie Sherry reviews the new musical telling of the Ford women's struggle

Made in Dagenham the film is excellent, but the collective experience of the musical — watching the performers live and alongside thousands of others — blurs the separation between a powerful but historical story and the live debates we are having in austerity Britain today.

This was amplified watching the show in a week in which some 700,000 workers, mainly women, had struck and 100,000 had marched over low pay. Sitting in the theatre you couldn’t help but wonder how many public sector workers were in the audience and how they might be feeling.

They won't divide us

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The female workers among Birmingham's refuse collection staff have been underpaid for years. They rightly put in equal pay claims and claiming for back pay, and this can range from £30,000 to £60,000 each. It should have been dealt with years ago, but it never was.

So the council had two choices: to bring the women's wages back up to our level or drop our money, which is exactly what they have done. It's loaders on the refuse collection side who have lost, ranging up to over £4,000. The drivers on refuse collections didn't lose anything. On my side of the council, the street clean team, it was our drivers who lost money, up to £3,000, but not workers like me who are considered street sweepers. We didn't lose anything.

Made in Dagenham

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Director: Nigel Cole; Release date: 1 October

It's 1968 and 187 female machinists at the huge Ford Dagenham car plant in east London vote for a 24-hour stoppage in a dispute over grading. Employed to sew seat covers in a dilapidated building where the roof leaks, the women decide upon action when they are regraded as unskilled while male colleagues doing similar work are classified as semi-skilled.

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