Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Made in Dagenham

Last night I had a really amazing experience. We went to see Made in Dagenham, the film. OK so such things are a little late coming to our rural backwater but it did only come out this year. In our part of Worcestershire the population votes Tory, by about 60% but I was surprised to see that the place was packed. There was hardly an empty seat.

This film, for those who haven't seen it, follows the story of the women machinists at Ford's Dagenham plant, who went on strike for equal pay, back in the time of Barbara Castle and Harold Wilson. What I found astonishing was the way that this audience cheered as these women took on the establishment in the trades-union movement and the Ford management.

OK so I guess the audience was at least two-thirds female and mostly over 55; so in some ways this was their history. They laughed when the women beat the union officials and made managers look stupid, they roared at snippets of black and white TV as they flashed by - Sooty even got a cheer.

The film is very good, lots of neat little touches that take the action past just a little industrial dispute and out into the whole of society.

I loved the final resolution of the dispute as Barbara Castle wrestled with deciding a percentage of the male rate that should be paid to the women; 92% as it happened. Putting a percentage on it exposes the hypocrisy of the whole thing. While the management could hide the injustice in the technical speak of job grades, semi skilled or unskilled, and all that stuff, it was easy to hide the ridiculous prejudice that was being acted out. Put a percentage on it and that just makes totally clear that it is the sex of the worker that determined the pay, and nothing else. As soon as that percentage existed it became indefensible. If two people were doing the same job they should obviously get the same pay.

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