In the late 1960’s, women working in the seat covering area of the Dagenham based Ford Motor factory were downgraded in terms of the skill level assigned to their jobs and informed that they would receive 15% less money than male worked in the same skill level.
The workers opted to go on strike which, for female workers in the UK to that point, was a rare thing indeed.
The 2010 film ‘Made In Dagenham’ is a dramatisation based on the story of these workers and the struggle that they went through, not only for themselves, but for the wage equality battle that they began for all female workers in the UK and further afield. The film is directed by Nigel Cole, who helmed 2003’s ‘Calendar Girls’, and produced in part by BBC Films.
The film centres around Rita O’Grady (played by Sally Hawkins – Blue Jasmine, Godzilla, Paddington), a married mother of two, whose husband Eddie (Daniel Mays – TV’s Ashes to Ashes, Welcome to the Punch) also works in the factory.
The battle builds with the women going on full strike following a response from the company and tensions escalate as they attempt to not only resolve their own issues, but to bring to light the challenge faced across the UK at the time.
The film features a broad cast with ladies from the factory including Geraldine James, Andrea Riseborough, and Jaime Winstone, with Bob Hoskins playing their foreman in one of his last roles.
Overseeing the factory itself is British actor Rupert Graves with Rosamund Pike playing his wife and Richard Shiff (of West Wing fame) Graves’ American boss. As the story of the workers becomes more newsworthy in the film, we also see Miranda Richardson as the UK Employment Secretary and John Sessions as Prime Minister Harold Wilson.
Through the setting, production design and costumes the film feels like a portal into the late 1960’s. Its filled with good performances and draws out the personalities in the film, to make for not only a important and touching story, but one told through credible characters throughout.
The most powerful element here is the reality of the situation of the pay inequality that was faced across the world in that period. More so, the fact that whilst the gap has significantly narrowed since this time (in part, in the UK, following the implementation of the 1970 Equal Pay Act) there remains work to do.
Good performances, an engaging tale and some humorous moments make for a pleasant enough tale, with an important message about progress that was made in the 60’s and more progress still required.
At time of writing, ‘Made in Dagenham’ is available on BBC iPlayer