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We Want Sex Equality

Hi followers !

Here I am going to talk about a movie that I have seen and that have really left its mark on me. It is called “We Want Sex Equality”. It is a 2010 British film directed by Nigel Cole. The film star is Sally Hawkins and it dramatises the Ford sewing machinists strike of 1968 that aimed for equal pay for women.

In 1968, the Ford auto factory in Dagenham was one of the largest single private employers in the United Kingdom. In addition to the thousands of male employees, there are also 187 underpaid women machinists who primarily assemble the car seat upholstery in poor working conditions. Dissatisfied, the women, represented by the shop steward and Rita O’Grady, work with union rep Albert Passingham for a better deal.
However, Rita learns that there is a larger issue in this dispute considering that women are paid an appalling fraction of the men’s wages for the same work across the board on the sole basis of their sex. Refusing to tolerate this inequality any longer, O’Grady leads the famous 1968 Ford sewing machinists strike where female workers walk out in protest against sexual discrimination, demanding equal pay for equal work. What follows would test the patience of all involved in a grinding labour and political struggle that ultimately would advance the cause of women’s rights around the world.
The strike is finally successful and leads to the Equal Pay Act 1970, the first legislation in the UK aimed at ending pay discrimination between men and women.

Historical accuracy

The women did not actually work at the Dagenham assembly plant but about a mile away at the River Plant (a collection of sheds). While the set used for the picket line has a sign that says “River Plant”, the dialogue always refers to Dagenham. The main character and strike leader, Rita O’Grady, is a composite character. +

The strike began on 7 June, 1968, when women sewing machinists at Ford Motor Company Limited’s Dagenham plant in Essex walked out, followed later by the machinists at Ford’s Halewood Body & Assembly plant. The women made car seat covers and as stock ran out the strike eventually resulted in a halt to all car production.
The Dagenham sewing machinists walked out when, as part of a regrading exercise, they were informed that their jobs were graded in Category B (less skilled production jobs), instead of Category C (more skilled production jobs), and that they would be paid 15% less than the full B rate received by men. At the time it was common practice for companies to pay women less than men, irrespective of the skills involved.
Following the intervention of Barbara Castle, the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity in Harold Wilson’s government, the strike ended three weeks after it began, as a result of a deal that immediately increased their rate of pay to 8% below that of men, rising to the full category B rate the following year.

The Impact

The strike was, however, to have an enduring legacy. Spurred on by their example, women trades unionists founded the National Joint Action Campaign Committee for Women’s Equal Rights (NJACCWER), which held an ‘equal pay demonstration’ attended by 1,000 people in Trafalgar Square on 18 May, 1969.
The ultimate result was the passing of the Equal Pay Act 1970, which came into force in 1975 and which did, for the first time, aim to prohibit inequality of treatment between men and women in terms of pay and conditions of employment. In the second reading debate of the bill, the machinists were cited by MP Shirley Summerskill as playing a “very significant part in the history of the struggle for equal pay”. Once the UK joined the European Union in 1973, it also became subject to Article 119 of the 1957 Treaty of Rome, which specified that men and women should receive equal pay for equal work.

Sexually yours! — posted by Eva


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