Trico: A Victory to Remember
The 1976 Equal Pay Strike at Trico Folberth, Brentford
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.
A Foreword … From the Past
Part One: Getting Organised
Disturbing the Peace
Where is Our Equal Pay?
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
Trico in Trouble
If It’s a Wiper – Black It!
Stepping up the Fight
Forty Years On – What Lessons for Today?
Fighting for Our Rights
‘Women are often invisible in trade union history, our collective struggles overlooked, our determination to fight for workplace justice and our leadership in the trade union movement unrecognised. The Trico dispute tells us that what really matters is women coming together to fight for justice and building workplace power. The Trico women took on their employer against all odds and showed how strike action and union power in the workplace can achieve equal pay and better pay for all.’
Siobhan Endean, National Officer for Women, Unite the Union
‘This book tells the story of the hard-won fight for equal pay at the Trico factory with passion, humour, and an “inside take” which is invaluable.’
Dr Louise Raw, Historian and author of Striking a Light: The Bryant and May Matchwomen and Their Place in History
‘Sally Groves’ and Vernon Merritt’s vivid description of this strike reminds us that the magnificent and victorious struggle of Trico women and men for equal pay was an inspiration to workers striving for better pay and conditions in the mid-1970s, and ever since.’
Ann Field, Retired national officer of Unite/GPM+IT sector
“The Trico factory closed in 1994, with most of the workforce becoming redundant, and different buildings occupying the site, so that in a way these events may appear all to belong in the past. Nevertheless the subject’s significance remains as a bit of labour history that should not be forgotten as well as concerning a vital issue still far from resolved. This very worthwhile publication does an excellent job of helping to preserve it in collective memory.”
‘There are many lessons for equal pay campaigners today within the pages of this book.’
-Heather Wakefield, Theory & Struggle