Sunday, January 30, 2011

Made in Dagenham

We might have the beginnings of a Christmas Eve movie tradition. In 2009 we went to Where the Wild Things Are, and Made in Dagenham was Christmas Eve 2010's effort. The fact that we were in Dunedin and that there were only 2 or 3 others in the tiny Metro cinema added novelty value.

Made in Dagenham
is the story of the fight for equal pay for women at Ford's massive car assembly plant at Dagenham in Essex. Women were a tiny proportion of the work force at Ford, and they made car seat covers. They went on strike in 1968 for two reasons - firstly because their work had been re-classified from skilled to semi-skilled and secondly because they were paid less than semi-skilled men. You can't deliver cars without seat covers so production at the entire plant ground to a halt. The dispute was resolved with the involvement of the Secretary of State for employment, Barbara Castle and the way was paved for pay equality with men.

From my 21st century perspective, I wonder why Ford was so stubborn about the issue in the first place since there were only 180 or so women and many thousands of men - it could hardly have made much difference to their bottom line to pay women the same rate as men. I guess they thought there was a principle involved - its good to be able to reflect that few people these days think that paying women less than men is justifiable.

You could call Made in Dagenham docudrama or edutainment but whatever you call it, it's an easy watch with great sixties costumes and sets, unusually good-looking factory workers and a generally good-humoured tone. Apart from documenting a pivotal event in industrial relations in the UK it explores the human impact of the strike - the effects on relationships when one or both breadwinners in the family are on strike, the effect on a town with one major employer when hardly anyone is earning, and what happens when women workers meet a woman politician. Well worth a look.

Anne's rating 3.5/5 Ian's rating 3/5