TUC Women Chainmakers’ Festival of Cradley Heath

Lee Barron, Midlands TUC Secretary explains “What is the Chainmakers’ Festival all about?” 

and the Relevance of the chainmakers today

THE world now is vastly different from the world of 1910. Nevertheless, the struggles of 1910 offer useful insights into the challenges that we face today.

  • Women bearing the brunt

Women have suffered tremendously as a result of the recession and austerity. For example, women working part-time earn nearly 38 per cent less than men and women make up the majority of those paid less than the living wage.

The TUC publication The Impact on Women of Recession and Austerity is a timely reminder of why it is absolutely right that we focus upon securing greater equality for women in the workplace and society.

  • Pay

Pay was the root cause of the chainmakers’ dispute and it could not be a more important topic today.

The statistics are simply stunning. The average full-time employee wage has fallen in real terms by £2,430 since 2010.

Moreover, just under a quarter of all workers in the West Midlands earn less than the living wage, rising to over 30 per cent for women.

  • Organising

In 1910 it was said that the chain-making industry was too difficult to organise because it was so fragmented.

They said that the workforce was too apathetic. Sound familiar?

Many of these challenges present themselves today with the increasing casualisation of large parts of our economy.

But Macarthur was a “smart campaigner.” She built broad alliances and drove a wedge between employers.

She used the media imaginatively and organised mass meetings as a way of bringing women workers together.

As she said: “Women are unorganised because they are badly paid, and poorly paid because they are unorganised.”

Therefore, the Chainmakers’ Festival is rightly an important date in the movement’s calendar. A great family fun day out with music, theatre, comedy, kids’ activities as well as speeches and stalls.

And in the struggles we face today, the lessons of the chainmakers have never been more relevant as we organise and campaign to secure fairness, dignity and security for workers today.

by Lee Barron, Midlands TUC Secretary – reprinted from Morning Star article


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