Film on women workers striking for equality

This video from England is called Made In Dagenham Movie Trailer.

By Jeff Sawtell in Britain:

Made In Dagenham (15)

Directed by Nigel Cole

Thursday 30 September 2010

Given the advance publicity I was looking forward to Made in Dagenham, since it’s based on the 1968 strike of women sewing machinists at Ford Motors which was supposed to have inspired the 1970 Equal Pay Act.

Made in Dagenham? More like made in Ealing, since it’s a film-fiction that has been described by some of the survivors as being “sexed up” and clearly doesn’t represent the political reality of the times.

That’s because director Nigel (Calendar Girls) Cole follows the formula of films like The Full Monty rather than the realism of Saturday Night And Sunday Morning (1960) and Poor Cow (1967).

The real-life working class heroes included Lil Grisley, Sheila Douglas and Violet Dawson, along with two male T&G conveners Bernie Passingham and Frederick Blake who were sympathetic to their cause.

At the time there were 55,000 men in the Essex plant and 187 women, the latter working for 70 per cent of the male wage. They’d had enough, especially being reclassified as non-skilled and working in decrepit conditions.

For the sake of dramatic licence the names have been changed and we have Sally Hawkins playing Rita O’Grady, who is encouraged by her sympathetic shop steward Albert (Bob Hoskins) to represent the women.

Naturally, she’s an inspiration, even though she has to cope with her children and a working husband (Daniel Mays) who, after being initially impressed, begins to wilt as soon as he’s got to do a spot of ironing.

After a successful 24-hour strike, they’re encouraged to take it further which provokes obstruction by some of the stone-faced union officials especially when the draconian US Ford bosses threaten to shut down the plant.

This provides for the stuff of the drama, which includes everything from humour to a tragedy before a meeting with Barbara Castle (Miranda Richardson) sees them win a partial victory and the promise of an Equal Pay Act.

My criticism of the style is its flagrant disregard for the politics of the time.

Despite showing a worker reading the Morning Star, it’s suggested that the T&G resembled a bunch of Kremlin clones – completely ignoring that the ban on communists holding office wasn’t lifted until 1968.

Then we have the Ford US boss describing “communists” as belonging to the “Socialist Workers Party, Workers Revolutionary Party and Revolutionary Communist Group” when they didn’t exist at the time.

Ironically, while the issue is portrayed as inspiring Castle to introduce the Equal Pay Act, she was writing up the white paper In Place of Strife to shackle the unions in 1969 that led to the Tory’s Industrial Relations Act of 1971.

Never mind, it’s a feel-good film that couldn’t be more apposite given we’re yet again faced with an onslaught on working class conditions to take us back to the stone age before we founded the welfare state.

See also here.

1 thought on “Film on women workers striking for equality

  1. Pingback: British photographer Jo Spence exhibition | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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