A Brief History of Equal Pay

What is Equal Pay? Know more about the Equal Pay Act and read the Brief History of Equal Pay at Wageindicator.co.uk
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Prior to 1970, it was common for women in the UK, especially in the private sector to be paid on separate lower rates of pay than men, regardless of their skill levels.

In 1968, women sewing machinists at Ford's Dagenham Factory went on strike over a re-grading demand, arguing that their work required the same amount of skill as work carried out by Eastman cutters and paint spray operators whose jobs had been graded more highly. 

This led to a number of other equal pay strikes and also led to the formation of the National Joint Action Campaign Committee for Women's Equal Rights (NJACCWER) who organised a massive equal pay demonstration in May 1969.

The Employment Secretary at the time, Barbara Castle, keen to avoid any further unrest, brought in the Equal Pay Act of 1970, permitting equal pay claims to be made by women in the public and private sector if their work was deemed the same or broadly similar to the work of their male equivalents. Although the Act was passed in 1970, it was not implemented fully for another five years, allowing employers to make 'adjustments'.

These 'adjustment' included re-grading jobs in a discriminatory way, meaning they were no longer subject to the narrow scope of the Act. 

The legislation didn't end the fight for equal pay, in fact the Act highlighted the real cause of women's unequal pay, namely the issue of job segregation and the undervaluing of 'womens's skills'.

Since then there have been a number of landmark equal pay cases including the Yorkshire dinner ladies and the Hull fish packers, whose stories you can read at the new unionhistory website: Winning Equal Pay: the value of women's work.

The site also contains edited versions of the TUC Recording Womens Voices series of films, featuring some of the women who have made history in the struggle for equal pay (including the dinner ladies and fish packers). A documentary The Equal Pay Story: Scenes from a Turbulant History gives a more in depth look into the struggle for equal pay since the 1880's.

Links: Union History: Winning Equal Pay: the value of women's work.