Each year the Women Chainmakers Festival celebrates the victory of the Women Chainmakers of Cradley Heath. These courageous women fought for - and won - their dispute for a living wage. As a result of their ten week strike in 1910 they won an increase in pay from five to 11 shillings a week. This set a precedent for a national minimum wage, although we had to wait until 1998 for the last Labour Government to introduce the National Minimum Wage Act to ensure a minimum level of pay for all workers.
It was a great pleasure to be able to join this year’s celebration, back in person for the first time since the pandemic. A personal highlight was hearing from the ‘Campaigning Women’ panel where women from across the West Midlands spoke about the inspirational campaigns they’ve been working on. [insert any if you can remember any].
The whole day was a reminder of how important our trade union movement has been in the fight for workers’ rights and how we must stop these rights from being eroded. Unfortunately, that is exactly what successive Tory governments have done. The 2016 Trade Union Act made taking industrial action more difficult and restricted pickets and trade union campaigning, and now the current government are trying to pass a draconian bill meaning workers could be sacked for taking strike action - even when that’s been agreed in a democratic ballot. We need a Labour government to stand up for workers and defend the right to strike.