Trico: A Victory to Remember - The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford by Sally Groves and Vernon Merritt

Trico: A Victory to Remember

The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford

Mar 2018
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This is the remarkable story, still relevant today, of four hundred women and their supporters who, in 1976, went on strike for 21 weeks to win equal pay with their male counterparts. It took place at the Brentford plant of Trico-Folberth, an American multinational producer of windscreen wipers. The strike was trail-blazing in many ways, and was essential to making women’s rights a central focus for the labour movement in the UK, a major turning point of the 1970s. Trico: A Victory to Remember is indispensable to understanding that shift. Illustrated with stunning archive photos mostly unseen for over forty years, the book charts the women’s campaign to their final victory, including anecdotes from some of those involved.

This is the story of the historic 21-week equal pay strike at Trico-Folberth in Brentford, West London, in 1976. Trico: A Victory to Remember is indispensable to understanding how the 1970s marked a turning point in making women’s rights a central focus for the labour movement, casting aside the minor role women were allocated in the mainstream. No longer could women’s rights be given mere lip service.

The strike was exceptional. It was the first time American-style picket-busting convoys of lorries and scab labour had been used against strikers who were mainly women. The employer, Trico, relied on legal loopholes in the new Equal Pay Act in presenting the case to a tribunal, which was boycotted by the strikers’ trade union, the AUEW. However, despite the tribunal ruling in favour of the employer, the union nevertheless successfully negotiated equal pay. This achievement was unique, and led towards the Equal Pay Act being amended in 1983.

The story of the strike, dramatically illustrated with original black and white photos, charts the women’s campaign from its beginnings to their final victory, including anecdotes from some of those involved. There is a brief history of the struggle for equal pay in Britain, and a chapter on the relevance of the Trico dispute to today’s society. Vernon Merritt, a strong supporter of the strike, began writing the story in 1977. He was a member of AUEW-TASS and a delegate on Hounslow Trades Council. Sally Groves completed the story and the rest of the book and collected  anecdotes from people involved. Sally worked at Trico from 1975 – 1980 on assembly and then as a trainee tool setter. She was one of the women on strike in 1976, and became the Trico AUEW Strike Committee’s Publicity Officer.

This book will inspire women everywhere; trade unionists and anyone suffering as a result of the gig economy. It will be of particular interest to those studying and researching issues of women’s equality.

Acknowledgements: 1977

Acknowledgements: 2016

A Foreword … From the Past

Foreword: 2017

 

Part One: Getting Organised

Disturbing the Peace

Where is Our Equal Pay?

Explosion!

The Early Days

Hot for Equality

‘We’re on Sex Strike Say Wives in Equal Pay Strike!’

Out on the Costa del Trico

Into Top Gear

 

Part Two: The Battle Rages

Strike Breakers Incorporated

More Twists and Turns

They Shall Not Pass

Battle at the Trico Gates

‘We Don’t Know Anything…’

 

Part Three: The Reckoning

More Determined Than Ever

Tribunal Trickery

Decisive Days

Trico in Trouble

If It’s a Wiper – Black It!

Stepping up the Fight

‘Sardine Sydney’

Victory!

Forty Years On – What Lessons for Today?

Fighting for Our Rights

 

Abbreviations

Appendix

Index