In 1968, the Ford auto factory in Dagenham was one of the largest single private employers in the United Kingdom. In addition to the thousands of male employees, there are also 187 underpaid women machinists who primarily assemble the car seat upholstery in poor working conditions. Dissatisfied, the women, represented by the shop steward and Rita O'Grady, work with union rep Albert Passingham for a better deal. However, Rita learns that there is a larger issue in this dispute considering that women are paid an appalling fraction of the men's wages for the same work across the board on the sole basis of their sex. Refusing to tolerate this inequality any longer, O'Grady leads a strike by her fellow machinists for equal pay for equal work. What follows would test the patience of all involved in a grinding labour and political struggle that ultimately would advance the cause of women's rights around the world.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (firstname.lastname@example.org)
When they are returning home from the party, a modern CCTV camera can be seen atop a large pole. See more »
[following her talk with Rita, Connie and the rest of the Dagenham women, Barbara Castle makes a statement to the waiting journalists]
I am delighted to announce that, following our talks this afternoon, the 187 Ford machinists *will* be going back to work on the 1st of July. They will receive an immediate pay rise of seven pence an hour which will put them at 92 percent of the male rate. However this is not all. As a result of our discussion, I can confirm that the Government is in full support...
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Captions in the closing credits: "Two years later in May 1970 the Equal Pay Act became law. Similar legislation quickly followed in most industrial countries across the world. Ford Motor Company Limited went on to effect changes in its employment practices and is now used as an example of a good practice employer." See more »
Social drama and comedy can be a tough balancing act. In telling the story of how a small group of women working in a factory in the late 1960s began a minor industrial dispute that rapidly escalated into a spearhead movement for gender equality in employment, Made in Dagenham plays it mostly for drama and keeps the laughs low-key and naturalistic. A closer kin to say, Billy Elliot, than to The Full Monty.
Sally Hawkins, best known so far for her breakout role in Happy Go Lucky, becomes the accidental spokesperson in this dispute, and delivers a beautifully nuanced performance of a woman who is angry and frustrated at the injustices of her situation, but has never felt able to voice them until now. In her quiet, sometimes faltering delivery we can sense the well of deep-seated conviction that has been struggling to find its voice. However, it is in the relationships of the women that the film finds its most compelling moments. Few movies these days even attempt, and very rarely succeed, in painting such an honest and heartfelt picture of female relationships and interaction.
By comparison to the core group, some of the surrounding roles (Bob Hoskins magnificently excepted) are rather more coarsely sketched. A pair of dopey civil servants in particular seem to be intended (although certainly not succeeding) as comedy sidekicks and feel rather out of place.
However the story is told in such an understated manner, easy on the grandstanding, and rather working its way under the skin with warmth and honesty; that after being little more than mildly entertained for much of the running time, I was genuinely caught off guard by how I was suddenly seething with anger at the unfairness of their plight, or elated with each little success. In a tale with huge nationwide consequences, it's the personal victories that count the most.
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