Yesterday marked the 50th Anniversary for the strikes held at Dagenham and Halewood Ford’s in 1968 for equal pay.
The 50th anniversary event yesterday, held at the CU University in Dagenham (Previously the town’s civic centre) was a united one on all fronts. Recognising the achievements, historical value and stories of the women from both the Dagenham and Halewood Ford’s factories.
The event yesterday was one to recognise the historical markers the ladies of Dagenham and Halewood Ford’s have achieved, whilst connecting the ladies from both factories to show how important both sites combining made a difference.
Local school girls in the borough of Barking & Dagenham were invited along to learn the history of the event and speak to influential women that made a change within the borough, helping them to have rights that they do today.
Local MP’s such as Jon Cruddas (MP of Dagenham and Rainham) and fellow councillors who have backed the cause over the previous months, as well as local businessman John Lewis (Managing director of the SOG Group, Londoneast-uk and The Heath Business & Technical Park in Runcorn) also attended the event to meet some of the iconic ladies involved and listen to their historical stories.
Exactly 50 years ago, 187 female sewing machinists at Dagenham Ford’s made history and took action, striking for equality in pay in 1968. News of the strike reached Ford’s in Halewood, Liverpool and female workers showed solidarity for the important cause, supporting those striking in the south.
The female sewing machinists at Ford’s were said to be classified in the companies pay structure as Grade B, which meant they were officially classed as unskilled, despite having to be tested before employment.
The strikes were a first of their kind and although at the time women faced criticism and prejudice for striking, they remained determined.
3 weeks after breaking strike, 8 strike committee members met with the employment minister at the time, Barbara Castle and agreed to cut the pay different to 92% of the men’s rate, which was previously 82%!
The co-ordinated strikes in 1968 are said to be a landmark achievement in relations between workers and their employers.
The Search For Historic Women
Councillor Darren Rodwell and co-workers such as Councillor Lynda Rice (cabinet member for equalities and diversity) and Jon Cruddas (Dagenham and Rainham MP) have been actively searching for women involved in the strike since early this year, reaching out to the community of Barking & Dagenham for help and support via social media and the Barking & Dagenham Post.
The support and search campaigns from Liverpool’s metro mayor, Steve Rotheram has been paramount over the previous months, again taking to social media and joining up with the Liverpool Echo, the search was on for ladies that were involved in the Halewood Ford’s strikes, supporting those striking in Dagenham in 1968.
It’s been said that in comparison of the southern Ford’s colleagues, those that striked in Halewood in solidarity have been largely overlooked, especially since the release of the ‘Made in Dagenham’ film. Work from Steve Rotheram and yesterdays event in Dagenham was one that connected all women involved, from both sites, providing opportunities to share their stories and look back on the history that was made from all contributors.
The womens strike at Fords in 1968, both in Dagenham and Halewood provided a catastrophic change for females striking and standing up for rights.
The strike that began on June 7th has been seen as a trigger to the Equal Pay Act in 1970 which banned employers for treating men and women as different and to treat them as equal, especially when setting pay conditions.
Today the fight for equal pay is still apparent and one which has a phenomenal backing. It’s movements such as the 1968 Ford strike which set of a chain of events for equality through history and ones that we can look back on, celebrating the change today, 50 years down the line!
Image Credits: Barking & Dagenham Post, Liverpool Echo, Londoneast-uk