The limitations of ‘equality’ as class strategy/Book review: Trico – A victory to remember, The 1976 equal pay strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford, by Sally Grovers and Vernon Merritt

After ‘Striking Women’ by Sundari Anitha and Ruth Pearson [1] this is another book about a women-led strike in the west-London area – this time largely written by a worker and striker herself. The Trico strike is less well known than the strike at Grunwick or Ford Dagenham, perhaps partly because the 21-week Trico strike ended in a victory and working class victories are less likely to be widely publicised – at least this is what the authors suggest.

Perhaps another reason for the dimmer spotlight on the Trico dispute is that the strike was an embarrassment for the male-led trade union movement: at Trico nearly all women workers went on strike and nearly all male workers scabbed. The National Front mobilised against the strike from within the male workforce. We find this aspect important.

During the course of the book we can also see how the institutionalisation of the equal pay demand was a double-edged sword: it shifted the conflict from a larger social question (pay differences between men and women, within the class) to an individualised issue (skill levels become the ground on which to argue over pay levels). The emphasis on ‘individual skills’ and ‘work of equal value’ is paralleled by an ideological shift within society away from collective categories such as ‘women’s oppression’ towards more airy and potentially individualising concepts such as ‘gender performances’. In this sense it is not a paradox that the Equality Act 2010 came into effect at a time when the ruling class attack to atomise and hierarchise the working class through outsourcing, self-employment, agency work etc. was the most severe – and hit those groups of workers hardest who the Equality Act was supposed to defend!

Another important difference to the Grunwick dispute is that the Trico factory was part of a global supply-chain system for the car industry, which gave the strike an extra-edge.

In any case, after taking part in a book presentation by the authors in a community hall in Southall, with many original strikers present, we enjoyed reading the book and want to share some of our thoughts. We will first summarise the background and chronology of the strike, based on the vivid and detailed account by the authors who were both active participants. We then look at the perspective of the authors on the strike and raise some critical and/or open questions. We finally look at the problems of the ‘equal pay’-struggle once it is seen and fought mainly as a legal or ‘particular’ battle – and not as a struggle towards greater class unity.

*** Background of the strike

The Trico factory opened in 1962 in an industrial area (‘The Golden Triangle’) on Great West Road, manufacturing windscreen wipers and motors for the automobile industry, mainly for Ford, Vauxhall and Leyland. Other automobile suppliers, like Firestone, were located nearby. A quarter of the Trico factory’s output was exported. The company had a 90% market share for wind-screen wipers in the UK. During the recession of the mid-1970s the total workforce in Brentford came down from 2,100 to around 1,400. By the mid-1970s the wages at Trico were below the industrial average. Unemployment had reached 1.5 Million and inflation levels were high.

Unlike at Grunwick the workforce was predominantly white-British and Irish, although workers from in total twelve different nationalities were employed, including workers of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian background. Workers describe the atmosphere amongst workers as friendly (“It was one big family”). Women worked mainly on assembly lines on day-shift, they were paid piece rate. Male workers did the same job for more money on the night-shift.

The factory did not have a particularly militant history – a short strike happened in 1969 and a one-week strike in 1975 remained limited to the warehouse. The Amalgamated Union of Engineering Workers (AUEW) had been established at Trico Brentford in the 1950s, already before the opening of the new plant in 1962. Although 70% of the shop-floor workers were members, the union was not seen as strong. Trico headquarters were in the US. The authors refer to the ‘American style’ management, as being anti-union – although ‘UK-style’ management, e.g. at Grunwick, cannot be described as particularly union friendly. [2]

In 1974 some assembly-lines were shifted to a new factory in Northampton (around 70 miles north of Brentford). This happened without proper consultation. In September 1975 management announced it was phasing out the night shift: 100 male workers took redundancy, 30 moved to a twilight shift and 5 started working on assembly lines on day shift, together with the women workers. They kept their night shift premium and earned 36.3 pence per hour compared to the 29.2 pence that was paid to the women. Despite management’s attempt to keep the male workers isolated, the pay difference ‘in broad daylight’ sparked off the discontent.

On 29th of December 1975 the 1970 Equal Pay Act became legally binding. Management justified the higher rate for male workers by saying that these were more ‘flexible’ and working on different positions along the line – which was not the case. Management then said that they will exclude the men from wage increases until the wages between men and women are equal – which didn’t go down well either.

The women workers lost their patience with both management and union negotiators: “Every now and then there was a hiccup, and then there was a stoppage for a couple of hours or so, and then it would be ‘yes, yes, we’re looking into it’ and all this, and then they’d all go back to work. Then someone from the union would come down and say ‘Look, you can’t just stop like this, you’d better go back to work, we’re negotiating…”

*** Chronology of the strike

In February 1976 more stoppages and short wildcat strikes happened on the washer line, shop stewards tried to restore order. The union called for meetings about equal pay, but male workers were not invited – which only partly explains why men later on didn’t support the strike. The division between men and women ran not only between strikers and scabs, but also between strikers and union leadership: the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the strike committee were male, the factory union convenor was male and all district union officials who negotiated on behalf of strikers were male.

On the 24th of May the AUEW called for a meeting in a nearby park and announced that there will be a symbolic one-day strike as part of the National Day of Action on Unemployment. The convenor then sent the male workers back to work and asked only the women to stay behind. He told them that negotiations about equal pay had reached an impasse and that it was up to the stewards to decide how to proceed. He then sent everyone back to work and left. Around 200 women from the washer line stayed in the park and called a new meeting. Most women returned from the factory, the convenor was called back and women voted overwhelmingly for an all-out strike – 98 women were not even union members. The strike had started.

* The men chicken out

The men discussed the strike, many of them argued that they should wait and see what the Industrial Tribunal would decide. The strike was still ‘unofficial’ so they would not be obliged by the union to not cross the picket line. Only 15 men joined the women at the gates. All 400 line workers were out, but around 1,000 people remained at work (including office, warehouse, tool makers, maintenance etc.). Despite the strikers being the minority the plant came to a progressive standstill. There were mixed emotions about the fact that the majority of workers were inside. On one hand it meant that Trico had to pay their wages, although practically no work was done; the union initially pushed this position. On the other hand the situation threatened to demoralise the strikers and would give management the opportunity to re-start production.

Trico sent a letter to each striker, saying that the strike was unnecessary, as Trico had contacted ACAS and the Industrial Tribunal to decide about the dispute. A first meeting took place on 2nd of June, without result. The women also knew that in most cases the Tribunal decided against equal pay claims: during the first six months after the Equal Pay Act came into effect 72% of applications were dismissed. At the end of March 400 women went on a protest march in Brentford industrial area.

On 27th of May the district committee of the union declared the strike as being official – this had little formal consequences as it was up to the executive council of the union to have the final say. The local union official announced that the dispute was the biggest strike for equal pay since the 1970 Act. Inside the factory the union held a meeting with the male workers, 40% voted to support the women by going on an all-out strike, 60% opposed this. Instead they voted for a one-day stoppage on the 2nd of June, on the day of the ACAS meeting. Union officials describe a later park meeting with male workers as ‘very threatening’. National Front members inside the factory were mobilising against the strike – the authors leave unclear whether this was because of the equal pay claim or because the strike was seen as supported by ‘communists’.

* Problems with the media and the law

The local and national press wrote largely dismissive articles about the industrial action. The headline of the local Evening Mail read: “The tale of Mrs Striker and Mr Blackleg – or, it will never get better when you picket”. The Sun wrote that women are on a sex strike and refused to serve hot food to husbands. The local Brentford and Chiswick Times was very sympathetic towards Trico management, some of the newspaper’s editorials were copied into company letters to discourage strikers. This experience with the press resulted in picketers chasing reporters away. The strikers got better press from the left-wing media, but in the end their best voice was their own strike bulletin, of which they printed over sixteen issues and in total 40,000 copies.

On the 8th of June strikers received another letter from Trico: ‘it might take eight weeks for the Tribunal to decide, please come to a canteen meeting on the 11th of June’. Despite the increasing pressure only 16 women returned to work during the first weeks. By that time the famous heatwave of summer 1976 was beating down and the picket-line was re-christened Costa del Trico. The heat might have been one of the reasons why the pickets experienced staffing problems: there were only 40 to 50 active picketers on the ground. Some women had left for Ireland due to financial reasons. Authors also state the fact that only 2 out of 400 women had cars and that there was domestic pressure not to hang out on picket-lines.

On the 15th of June the AUEW executive council declared the strike to be an official dispute, which meant that strike pay of £9 a week was paid to the workers. It also meant that 150 men now joined the strike, they mainly came from the tool room. It is unclear for how long they stayed out though. The union discussed the problem that Trico could ship parts from the US or Australia – Heathrow workers had been informed, so had been dockers, to look out for Trico products. In the meantime the union had decided to boycott the Tribunal hearing. On the 29th of June 500 strikers and supporters marched through Brentford, including delegates from Acton Rails, AEC, British Airways and other local workplaces.

* Material impact of the strike

By this time the production in Brentford was low, but running, thanks to new recruits and internal shifts. The Northampton plant was also producing. Still, a lot of international customers had now to be supplied from the New York/Buffalo plant, at much higher production and transport costs. Unionised Heathrow workers discovered boxes with Trico products disguised as ‘Computer Parts’ under different company names. The AUEW union calculated that the strike cost Trico around £20,000 per day. During the first five weeks of the strike only a few trucks went in and out of the factory gates. Finished goods accumulated inside and necessary stock of sheet-metal was depleted. Trico had to get trucks through.

On the 1st of July at 2am nine trucks of a small logistics company turned up. Six truck drivers refused to cross the picket-line, three truck drivers decided and managed to get in and out. The same happened the following night, this time with police support – only two, three people were on picket duty. Facing trouble to staff the pickets the strike committee decided to pay for nightshifts and later on also for dayshift picket duties on top of the strike pay. In order to be more prepared for future truck deliveries a phone tree with 100 supporters for nightshifts was set up.

The authors and perhaps the unionists in general at the time were outraged by the nightly attacks: “It may have been normal practice in dealing with the organised strikes of American car workers in the 1930s, but this was Brentford, not Detroit!”

* Financial difficulties for strikers

After one month of strike workers started facing financial difficulties when it came to paying rent and food. The Claimants Union distributed pamphlets for strikers about how to claim benefits and women workers engaged in collective actions at and occupations of DHSS offices. In Hounslow they were kicked out by the cops. They described the discrimination from the benefit office: “Social security have been a terrible headache to us. And there again, even they apply sex discrimination because a man can claim for his wife and his children – in some cases, not all – but a woman, a one-parent family, gets nothing.”

The book describes the acute struggle for material resources – collections at other companies played a major role. To make ends meet the strike committee needed at least £4,000 in donations each week! Groups of workers collected at local factories, donations were brought from Sikh temples or left-wing groups, strikers travelled far to speak to other workers. In 2017 monetary terms the strikers raised a total of £262,000 over the 21 weeks of dispute. Still, some women had to take part-time jobs to survive and people relied heavily on their families. Women without local family had trouble: “A lot of the Irish girls went on holiday to Ireland and stayed there in the family home until the strike was over…”

* The truck raids get more organised

On the 11th of July in total 17 trucks and 40 scabs went in, the police had closed off Boston Manor Road. The cops let trucks pass through red traffic lights and accepted the covering up of their number plates. More supporters join the pickets: workers and unionists of other factories, political and feminist activists, gay pride warriors. Workers organise their own motor-cycle scouts and they get support from random members of the public: “And then there was the tea man. Every night at 10:30pm and again between 1am and 2:30am, he arrived at the gates with an urn of tea, sugar and milk and served everyone with a cup. Nobody ever thought to ask who he was!” The trucks tended to arrive between midnight and 2am, as they had to make it to the Northampton plant on time.

On the 29th of July the police arrived with five coaches and 100 cops – the 25 picketers are outnumbered. Despite physical resistance trucks with rolled steel from Sheffield break through. Workers and union delegates visited the scabbing transport companies and threaten them with boycott.

* Visits at other workplaces

After the eighth week of the strike a few active workers and union delegates started to visit workplaces further away: they visited the Leyland and Trico Northampton plant, where they found out that the women there earned £11 less per week than the women in London. They visited Chrysler in Glasgow and Jimmy Reid and ship-yard workers in Yorkshire. A lot of the meetings were pretty male dominated and at some venues the female Trico delegates felt too nervous to speak.

* The Tribunal decides in the company’s favour

The workers delegates had meetings with ACAS on the 13th and 15th of July. Trico made some offers: £2.33 per week increase in return for more flexibility. The union and the strikers refused the offer during a park meeting. On the 24th of August the Tribunal decided in favour of company – the Tribunal didn’t ask for evidence from workers’ side. The workers are not too impressed by the Industrial Tribunal decision, although the media tried to use this against them: they are defying the law!

* Trico lays off workers

On the 1st of September, Trico announced that 445 men and 77 women shop floor workers at Brentford and Northampton will be laid off from the 3rd of September onwards. There was tension when scabs came out, workers found some NF flyers pinned up in the area. A tool room shop steward said to the ‘Financial Times’ that the strike was led by ‘left-wingers’ and that 317 union members at Trico had signed a letter to the AUEW president saying that they had no trust in the union executive and local convenor. He said he will “blow this communist-dominated District Office”.

* The problem to disrupt the supply-chain

Thanks to plants in other countries Trico was able to continue sending wipers to UK car plants, although on a much reduced scale – the book is not very specific here. The main power was now in the hands of the workers in the assembly plants – but the boycott of Trico products or of wind-screen wipers in general was not widespread enough: “Despite the important decision of the British Leyland Combine Committee to boycott Trico products, effective action varied from plant to plant. In the absence of any official instruction from the AUEW National Executive Committee, the boycotting of Trico wipers was never robustly effective nationally…”. Leyland and Ford now received wipers from other companies like Lucas Electric, Bosch etc. The Ford Langley convenor said that production at their plant was not affected, as they received wipers from Italy.

* Late victory in extra-time!

Materially Trico was in a difficult spot, so they first tried with another measly offer of £2.50 during an ACAS meeting on 13th of September. This was refused. Trico then tried to make a deal with the union executive council, but due to pressure from other union officials this didn’t work out. On the 14th of October Trico finally offered an equal pay rate, which meant an increase of £6.50 for most women.

The Trico Brentford factory closed in 1994, production moved to the south of Wales.

*** Lessons from the strike and open questions

The background and account of the strike covers 180 pages of the book and includes great photos and interviews with other strikers, about their backgrounds, their working and family life and how they experienced the strike. Together with the authors we can draw some valuable lessons from the strike:

* The strike reached a political dimension very quickly. The strikers had to confront the main questions of class society: how does a multi-national company in the main capitalist industry organise its production? who is the media and who are the cops working for? what is the role of the tribunals, courts and laws? how to tackle the main divisions within our class?

* The strikers depended on other workers beyond their factory, to interrupt production at the main car plants and to collect money to sustain the strike. The collection of money was not an act of begging for charity, but an appeal to practical solidarity and an important element of widening the scope of the strike, from organising discos in Greenford Hall to theatre plays at Bush Theatre. We should keep this in mind in our current debates about strike funds etc..

While the depiction of the strike is detailed, it leaves us with some open question.

* What was the actual balance of forces?

We struggle to understand the balance of forces – and here we don’t mean the balance between cops and scabs on one side and picketers on the other, but the ability of the workers and their strike to stop production first of all in their factory and more significantly for the success of the strike, in the main automobile assembly plants. The authors say that all ‘shop-floor workers’ or female assembly-line workers and later on 150 men, mainly from the tool room, walked out – in total between 400 and 550 workers. Who were the remaining 1,000 workers and where were they employed – several hundred will have worked in the warehouse, machine shops, offices, but 1,000 seems a very high figure. How did Trico get production going and how high was the output by the time they decided to lay off most workers? The second question concerns the supply-chain of the main plants. The authors write that Trico had 90 per cent market share in the UK – was there another Trico plant apart from Northampton and Brentford? How did the other windscreen wiper companies manage to ramp up production when Trico supply failed? Was there any interruption in the main plants at all?

* How involved were most of the women in the decision-making?

The authors mention that the dispute was preceded by wildcat actions of women, mainly on the washer line. The same women also called for the decisive park assembly and the strike vote. From then on we mainly hear from the largely male union strike leaders and from smaller amounts of women on the picket lines – only between 40 and 50. The same few (and often male) names appear when it comes to workers’ visits at other factories. This leaves open the question how involved the ‘ordinary workers’ were in the decision making – apart from voting whether or not to accept the company offers.

* What was the role of the CP? How do we understand the position of the National Front?

We know that during the 1970s the Communist Party still had a major role and influence within the factories, not only in west-London. The book doesn’t mention the CP at all, which seems odd to us – it seems like the authors omit the issue because they don’t want to give in to the discourse of the National Front. First of all we are interested how the CP worked at the time, not mainly how the organisation operated as a top-down Stalinist machine, but how they organised workers on a rank-and-file level. To know more about this would also be important in order to understand the role of the National Front. How organised were they within the workforce? Did they oppose the strike mainly because they saw it as a product of ‘red agitators’ or did they directly address the sexist sentiments amongst male workers who opposed women workers’ claim to equal pay? This would be crucial to understand in order to assess the contemporary influence of the far-right within the working class.

* What was the role of the Labour Party?

The authors mention that there was individual support from Labour Party MPs. About the role of the Labour Party both as an organisation and as a governing party the book doesn’t say much. The authors quote one of the strikers, Peggy Farmer: “As far as I’m concerned the Equal Pay Act was a ‘puller’… launched as part of Labour’s election programme to get into office. We expected to find the Act was straightforward but now we can see the loopholes. The government knows we have been out for thirteen weeks. We would like them to step in.” They also say that the “Labour Party in general gave the strike ‘little to no formal recognition as being either politically or symbolically significant”. Again, this doesn’t say much about the role of a party that was both in national and local government position during the 21 weeks of dispute.

* Some critical remarks

While we think that despite these open questions the actual strike account is brilliant, we think that the following chapters on general lessons of the strike and the history of the ’equal pay’-demand are less interesting, e.g. the ‘lessons for feminism’ are only one-and-a-half pages long and basically say that we have to listen to ‘ordinary workers’ – sure thing! While the strike account relates the various ways in which women workers took things into their own hands, the analysis of the wider development suffers from the usual lefty version of events: the mass media is owned by the rich, Thatcher was the origin of all evil, the Tory laws made the trade union movement toothless. Instead of looking at the internal and material changes the blame is put on ‘bad politics’.

The authors says: “We would never have been able to achieve equal pay at Trico under the draconian new [Trade Union] Act (2016).” At the same time they not only fail to mention the 30,000-strong women textile workers wildcat strike in Leeds 1970 – which was definitely an important part of women workers’ struggle for equal pay – they also ignore the basic nature of mass strikes before Labour’s attempt to appease them with the social pact and other forms of ‘legalisation’ in the mid-1970s: “The number of strike days rose from less than five million in 1968 to 13.5 million in 1971 and 23.9 million in 1972. By the late 1960s, 95% of all strikes in Britain were unofficial.” [3] To say that the ‘draconian new Act’ of the Tories would have meant that it would have been impossible to struggle back then ignores the fact that most strikes at the time happened outside of the legal framework anyway.

*** A few thoughts on struggle ‘for equality’ and the ‘equal pay’ disputes

In the 1960s and 1970s, with greater labour market participation in crucial industries, such as Trico, women and Black workers’ struggle for equality finally obtained enough punch to rattle society and class-internal hierarchies. The big question is how we relate to these struggles as revolutionaries, how mediating bodies such as trade unions relate to them and how the state and ruling forces try to integrate them.

We can say that the lefty left-over of the French Revolution to appeal for ‘human equality’ has two major flaws: a) it is toothless in a class society, where the ruling class can fairly easily pay a political dividend to certain sections of the class to maintain a situation of divide-and-rule; why should male or white workers support the struggle for ’equality’? because of a well-meaning ideal? b) given its toothlessness it will end up appealing not to the ‘privileged sections’ of the working class, but to the enlightened parts of the state and middle-class mediators. This in turn weakens working class initiative.

We can see this playing out during the Trico dispute to a certain degree – even though the actual details are missing. The union leadership treated the struggle of the women for higher pay as a ‘women’s issue’, meaning, they consequently didn’t include or invite male workers to the initial meetings and debates. They might have appealed to the male workers that they should, out of solidarity or whatever, support the women’s demand – which was well-meaning, but empty. From a revolutionary class perspective the only material basis for the creation of unity – apart from the pressure and rupture that the struggles ‘from below’ create – is the prospect that in the medium-term future the working class can only win significant and offensive struggles if the ruling class ‘divide-and-rule’ is undermined. We are not saying that if the strikers and the union had addressed male Trico workers in this way they would have happily joined the strike! It would have needed and will need a broader fundamental shift in class strategy, away from appeals and focus on ‘privileges’, in order to shift the ideological balance of forces.

* The Tesco pay claim example

To give a more contemporary example of struggles for ‘equal pay’, we can look at the current £4bn equal pay claim at Tesco. [4] The claim is that workers – majority women – who are employed in Tesco stores and who work as check-out workers or who stack shelves earn significantly less than workers – majority men – who do similar jobs in Tesco distribution centres. Both sides of the dispute try to prove that (female) store workers and (male) warehouse workers have either similar skills and performance levels and therefore deserve equal pay, or different skills and performance levels, and should therefore be paid differently. The trade union actually keeps out of this, but in general the defensive position of trade unions is to use ‘skill levels’ as formal barricades when it comes to argue why certain workers should be paid more – the problem is that this can obviously also be turned against workers who are allegedly lacking skills.

While we should support claims for equal pay amongst workers, we have to be clear about the particular reasons for differences in wages. Without this knowledge we will have difficulties to find the most effective and empowering ways to fight for better conditions. The reason why workers in the stores earn less than workers in distribution centres is not primarily because they are women, but because store workers have less material clout vis-a-vis Tesco. Distribution centres are a massive concentration of workers on which dozens of stores depend, whereas stores employ less workers and strikes would have less of an impact. Workers in stores are subsumed under the USDAW union and Tesco partnership agreement, which doesn’t allow for voting on pay agreements and excludes industrial action, whereas distribution centres are individual bargaining units that can go on strike – as happened recently in Dagenham. [5]

There is obviously a gender imbalance between stores and distribution centres: stores offer more part-time positions, which many women workers are forced to take due to the double burden of reproductive work; and there might be a ‘male culture’ in warehouses, too, which forms a barrier for female employment. We have written on this issue based on our own experiences. [6] But in this case, to claim that warehouse workers are paid more primarily due to ‘male privilege’ helps hide the only power that workers have vis-a-vis capital: their collective productive power. A class perspective and intervention would have to address the issue in all its aspects: a) the main reason why workers in distribution centres earn more is because they are not shackled by the union-management agreement and because of their structural power; a common strategy has to be developed from both distribution centres and stores b) women are still paid less because of ‘sexist culture’ in workplaces (“who runs machines, who operates forklifts”), but mainly due to deeper structural reasons: the burden of reproductive work still subsumes women to a male full-time wage, which is the reason why the male wage is still calculated as the main source of family income. This is a wider social structural force that affects even single mothers or women who don’t have children. In this situation, to argue on the level of ‘skill levels’ is a trap – no wonder that the Tesco equal pay claim is entirely in the hands of middle-class lawyers.

* Work and gender as ‘performance’

The latter part of the book describes well how the struggle for equality degenerated from the women workers strikes in the 1970s to legalistic and formalistic haggling over skill levels. Capital and state tried to individualise the social dispute by channelling it into assessments and evaluations of ‘work of equal value’. Here are some quotes: “A new feature of these battles over equal value claims was the increasing reliance by companies and even tribunals on management consultants with proprietary job evaluation schemes” (…) “In the absence of a proper evaluation study, the question of equal value was often decided by finding a male comparator, the different value placed on ‘male’ and ‘female’ skills operated to overvalue men’s traditional skills and undervalue those of women.” The starting point of these ‘evaluations’ is wrong from the start, being based on the wage fetish: we are supposed to think that workers are paid for their (individual) performance. Instead we have to argue that the wage is a disguise of class exploitation and – to a certain degree – an expression of the balance of power between workers and capital.

From a class perspective we have already lost when we link the struggle over pay to skill levels. But consciously or not, part of the left discourse on gender mirrored (and fostered) the ruling ideology of individualisation. The parallel between discussions about individual performance and skill levels as yardsticks for the ‘evaluation of work’ and the discussions about ‘gender performance’ as the central category to define women’s oppression and social hierarchies is blatant. These post-modern discourses are the background music to a process of atomisation within the class which has resulted in the seemingly paradoxical situation described above: the Equality Act 2010 was enacted at a time of the heaviest attack on ‘equality’ within the class – and sub-contracts, agency work, outsourcing, self-employment etc. impacted even more on those groups who the act was supposed to defend.

We close this review with a quote from the book which paints the picture of this paradox from a different angle: “The Cameron government’s Ministry for Women and Equalities also announced in February 2016 that Sir Philip Hampton of GlaxoSmithKline was to lead their effort to increase the number of female executives at Britain’s 350 biggest companies. As one observer on social media commented: “So government has appointed a man to the top job of a new campaign to appoint more women to top jobs! It is also ironic that it is the chairman of GlaxoSmithKline that was appointed, given that it is GSK that now occupies the [Trico] site that, over forty years ago, witnessed one of the most intrepid battles for equal pay in British trade union history.”




Still, at the time US investment and management techniques were a novelty. In a different book on west-London industrial history (“All in a day’s work”, by Dave Welsh) workers said that local ‘American companies’, like Heinz food factory, were seen as better, due to benefits, facilities and ‘after-work’ activities for employees.