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Ford Dagenham strikers of 1968 say fight not over despite equal pay plans

PUBLISHED: 13:30 15 February 2016 | UPDATED: 13:38 15 February 2016

Eileen Pullen, Sheila Douglass, Gwen Davis and Vera Syme

Eileen Pullen, Sheila Douglass, Gwen Davis and Vera Syme

Archant

Women involved in the 1968 Ford strike for equal pay have said plans to force firms to publicise their gender pay gap do not go far enough.

Nicky Morgan, women and equalities minister. announced on Friday that companies with 250 or more workers must publish the salaries of male and female staff to highlight differences in pay.

Figures show that, among full-time employees, women earn about 9.4 per cent less than men – or £471 a week to men’s £567.

“If there are two women in a company and eight men, the men will find a way to pay themselves more,” Gwen Davis, one of the leaders of the Ford Dagenham sewing machinists’ strike that led to the Equal Pay Act in 1970, said.

“I might be sexist, but I don’t know. Unless the government forces them, nothing will change.”

Gwen did concede, however, that the plans are a step forward – but said that certain women are still being left behind.

“Some are doing very well,” she said. “They’re at the top of their careers, running American companies, in the government.

“But cleaners, shopkeepers – they are not getting a good wage.

“I don’t think they ever will – it’s a class thing.”

Gwen also said the need for strong unions is as great now as it was in 1968, a sentiment she shares with fellow Ford striker Dora Challingsworth.

“We need more protesting,” Dora said. “I don’t there’s enough fighting going on.

“Women can fight if they have a leader – but how many women are leaders of unions?

“Though when we had our fight, we had to fight the union as well as the company.”

Dora noted that differences in retirement age – where women once ended work five years earlier than men – were “quickly” changed, but pay has not followed.

“The money should be the same,” she said. “But it’s going a bit backwards now.

“Something has got to be done about it.

“Women just have to stand up for themselves and fight.”

The government scheme will be given £500,000 to help companies implement the new rules and to ensure more women choose STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) careers.

This is partly why, Mrs Morgan said, women earn less than men during their lives apart from the ages 22–39, where they earn more.


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