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Equality – made in Merthyr

| September 24th 2010

The film ‘Made in Dagenham’, which charts the fight for equal pay of women machinists at Ford, was filmed at the former Hoover factory in Merthyr Tydfil. But the Hoover plant had an equality struggle of its own, in the early 1980s, when the then union agreed with management that women workers should be made redundant before men.

The women initially found very little support for their cause. At the time, the idea that women worked for ‘pin money’ while men needed a ‘family wage’ was commonplace, even though then, as now, the women’s wages made a huge contribution to their family’s well-being.

The women eventually brought their concerns to a conference on equality held in Royal Hotel, Cardiff, where at last they had a sympathetic hearing. The Equal Opportunities Commission supported their case against management and the union, and Chapter video workshop made a campaign tape ‘Political Annie’s off again’ which helped to gather support. Eventually the women won, and a fairer way of sharing the misery of redundancy was found.

Sadly, the Hoover women’s story is pretty much forgotten and the jobs at Hoovers, whether held by women or men, are gone. But the attitudes, assumptions and discrimination that led to the Ford women and the Hoover women protesting all those years ago still remain. Women are still, after all these years, less likely to be in employment than work than men. When they do work, only about half work full time compared with nine out of ten men; they work in a narrow range of occupations (cleaning, caring, clerical etc) and they are paid less than men.

So, if you go and see Made in Dagenham, remember that not only the film but part of the equality struggle was made in Merthyr.

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