“Castle knew then that the unions would never push for equal pay on their own and presented the case for an Equal Pay Act to cabinet. Roy Jenkins rejected the notion that it should be paid for from male wage increases. He argued that there is some hypocrisy in the people advocating it and that it was not electorally popular.Frank Cousins, the former minister for technology, and union leader had been previously heard saying ‘Of course I am opposed to equal pay’ on a trip to Russia. There was further opposition to the bill from Tony Crosland and Dick Marsh in cabinet.”
A watershed moment in the fight for gender equality, the Equal Pay Act 1970 ‘stated that women should receive equal pay for equal work’. If they believed they were paid less than a male counterpart, engaged in similar work, they could take their employer to a tribunal.
The Road to 1970
Whilst its impact has been widely disputed, it was the culmination of a long and arduous struggle by Barbara Castle against the old guard of the Labour movement. The first recorded claim for equal pay is understood to have been made in 1832, by the women who worked in Robert Owen’s ‘labour exchange’. From here to the late 1800s, various groups looked to align themselves to the Trade Union movement. It would be the First World War that drew many women into the workplace. In 1915 the Women’s War Workers Committee drew up a list of demands including the rights…
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