British women’s equal pay fight not won yet

This video from Australia is called Equal work – Equal pay rally and march Melbourne 10 June 2010.

From British weekly The Observer:

The fight for equal pay … 40 years on

In 1968, a walkout by a group of women machinists at Ford led to the Equal Pay Act. So why, four decades on, does a massive gender gap at all levels of earnings mean industrial tribunals are clogged up with cases?

* Jo Revill

* Sunday June 1 2008

Women bus conductors with placards at a protest in 1968 to demand equal rights with men at work. Photograph: Homer Sykes/Hulton archive/Getty images

Forty years ago, a group of women sewing machinists at the Ford Motor Company plant in Dagenham saw red. They discovered that men who were doing the same work as them – making the car seats for Cortinas and Zephyrs – were being paid 15 per cent more.

The women walked out of the plant on 7 June 1968 in support of a claim that would not only pay them the difference but that would recognise their skills and put them on a higher grade. Many of them were former dressmakers and took pride in their work which they felt was going unrecognised. They wanted to be put on the same pay level, grade C, as the paint spray operators in the plant. As this was the group of machinists responsible for making all the seat covers their action rapidly brought production at the plant to a halt.

One of them, Violet Lawson, recalled last week: ‘At that time we had men night-work machinists and they were getting paid more than us. And we said, “Well, we want C grade if the men are getting it. We want equal pay”.’

After three weeks of a very high-profile strike, they settled for 92 per cent of the C grade rate. Barbara Castle, the formidable Labour employment minister of the day, was brought in to help negotiate a settlement.

But the impact of the walkout was far-reaching. It hastened the government to bring in the Equal Pay Act in 1970, which for the first time made it illegal to have a separate pay rate for men and women. It also set out the concept of ‘like work’ so that those whose work was rated as equivalent to another job, but were paid less, could go to an industrial tribunal.

Forty years on, many campaigners are asking why it is that men and women are still paid such different rates. The UK is one of the worst in Europe in terms of the gender divide, with women in full-time work being paid, on average, 17 per cent less than their male counterparts. When it comes to part-time work, the figures are much worse. The gap is enormous – a 36 per cent gap between the sexes.

There has also been a huge rise in the number of legal cases. Last year, 44,000 equal pay claims were brought before the courts, more than double the number in 2005. Very few make it through to an employment tribunal – some women give up and many others settle out of court, with companies often demanding that employees sign a confidentiality clause.

The Miss Universe event: here.

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