Saturday, 2 March 2013

Stefan Cross QC

BBC 2 is screening 'Made in Dagenham' tonight - a hugely enjoyable film but one with a serious message about the fight for equal pay in the late 1960s - one which still resonates today, of course.

So this seems like as good a time as any to share some good news with regular readers of the blog site - and the many thousands of clients of Action 4 Equality Scotland (A4ES).

Which is that my fellow campaigner and co-collaborator - Mr Stefan Cross - has just been appointed as a Queen's Counsel (QC) - in recognition of his contribution in advancing the law on equal pay in the UK.

Now becoming a QC is a very big deal in legal circles - in fact some folks I know would 'throw their granny off a bus', so to speak - just to be able to put such impressive letters and credentials after their names. 

But in this case the appointment is very richly deserved because Stefan has - quite simply - changed the legal landscape in relation to equal pay.

By providing access to justice to many thousands of low paid women workers who could not rely upon the employers or trade unions to protect their rights - when the chips were down. 

Welcoming his appointment Stefan said:

"I am absolutely delighted with this unexpected appointment as a QC. During the last ten years I have campaigned for equality in the face of determined opposition and many detractors. I continued to fight these equal pay cases to the highest courts because I cared passionately about the rights of low paid women who had not been well served by their trade unions. I am very pleased that I have been able to make a positive and lasting contribution to advancing the law in equal pay."

Now I can testify to that myself - and not just because Stefan has offered to buy me a drink to celebrate his success. No, the reason I take my hat off to Stefan is that every word of his statement is completely true.

The reality is that until Stefan Cross and A4ES came along low paid council workers in Scotland (most of them women of course) had been left high and dry - with nowhere to turn for support - because the council employers and trade unions had no intention of honouring their obligations on equal pay.

But we did appear on the scene just in the nick of time, as it turned out, and the fight for equal pay continues to this day - with major cases against Glasgow City, North Lanarkshire and South Lanarkshire Councils still underway.    

So eat your heart out 'detractors' and 'equal pay deniers' because we've just added another string to our bow - and it's one with a very long reach.   

Made in Dagenham (16 November 2011)

In case you missed it at the cinema - Made in Dagenham - a film about the fight for equal pay in 1968 is now showing on the Sky movie channel.

Here's what I wrote about Made in Dagenham when it was released last year - but it is truly incredible that the same fight is having to be fought out all over again - 40 years on.

And do you know what - the issues are exactly the same - employers and trade unions bending over backwards to deny women workers equal pay.

How is it possible - in Edinburgh for example - for the council to argue that a social care worker, or a catering manager or a classroom assistant - was not entitled to the same rate of pay as a refuse worker.

If anything, these female dominated jobs should all have been paid more - but the council and the trade unions - turned a blind eye to what was going on for years.

The employers and the trade unions - should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

Made in Dagenham (September 17th 2011)

A new film is to be released next month which tells the story of the struggle for equal pay in 1968 - by a group of women at the Ford car plant in Dagenham.

An inspiring story - by all accounts - it tells the tale of 187 women machine workers who walked out of the Dagenham car plant in 1968 - when their work was downgraded as 'unskilled' - and their demand for the same pay grading as the men in the factory was refused.

Directed by Nigel Cole of Calendar Girls, the film has a great British cast - including Sally Hawkins, Bob Hoskins, Rosamund Pike, Rupert Graves, Geraldine James, Miranda Richardson and John Sessions.

The idea for the film came about when the women behind the original protest - appeared on Radio 4's The Reunion programme.

Made in Dagenham stars the award winning Sally Hawkins as Rita O'Grady - who is the catalyst for the 1968 strike - which took place only two years before Equal Pay Act was introduced in 1970.

Working in poor conditions and for long hours, the women at the Ford Dagenham plant finally laid down their tools - in protest at their second class treatment compared to their male colleagues.

With humour, common sense and courage they take on their corporate paymasters, an increasingly belligerent local community, and finally the government of the day.

The leader of the women's struggle is fast-talking, no nonsense Rita whose fiery temper and occasionally hilarious unpredictability - proves to be a match for any of her male opponents.

I imagine the film will be a hit with everyone who has been involved in the struggle for equal pay some 40 years on - with Action 4 Equality Scotland.

The same battle that was waged in 1968 has essentially had to be fought all over again - only this time on behalf of low paid council workers in Scotland.

The trade unions never led this fight because they were part of the problem - doing deals that favoured traditional male jobs - and shamelessly betraying the interests of their women members.