The following letter was submitted to the Derby Telegraph.
This week we celebrate International Women’s Day. Within Britain we should spare a thought for women’s legendary struggles for improved working conditions and pay. Noteworthy, are the achievements of the ‘Match Girls Strike’, in June 1888; the women’s strike for equal pay to male workers at the Ford Car plant in Dagenham, June, 1968; and the Grunwick dispute in 1976, led by Jayaben Desai. In the city of Derby, the intractable dispute between the Labour-led City Council and a predominantly, female, teaching assistant workforce marks a contemporary episode of women defending their rights.
Who would have thought that in 2017 women are being forced to defend their pay? The Conservative Government’s brutal cut in budgets to local councils since 2010 is part their austerity agenda. The consequence is a perilous reduction in services. In this context is set the situation of the local Teaching Assistants who face a financially crippling reduction in their salaries. These are already low paid workers. Should women workers have to bear the brunt of austerity in the city of Derby?
This damaging disrupt began nearly a year ago. Since then Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn and Dame Margaret Beckett, MP for Derby South, have called for all sides in the dispute between Derby City Council and the Teaching Assistants to reach a settlement. Parents/carers, the residents of Derby and Labour Party members across the East Midlands have joined teaching assistants in public demonstrations in addition to raising concerns and passing resolutions in their Constituency Local Party meetings. Yet there has been a strange lack of engagement from the local Labour Party membership concerning this dispute. As a local party activist and a lifelong member of the Labour Party, I call upon on the local Labour Party members, as a mark of this week’s event, to play their role. The issue of this damaging dispute should be raised at wards and Constituency Labour Party meetings. A speedy resolution should be in everyone’s interest to stem the potential reputational damage to the city of Derby.
Professor Cecile Wright,
Women’s Officer, Derby Labour Party Campaign Forum