History free essay: Made in Dagenham (2010)
Made in Dagenham (2010)
The 20th century witnessed a series of industrial conflicts involving the employees and the employers at an unprecedented rate never witnessed before. Strikingly, many socioeconomic and political changes were being experienced across the globe causing a shift in industrial relations. Workers were becoming instrumental in the manner in which their welfare issues were handled by the state and the employers. Industrial conflicts witnessed in the 20th century became a global phenomenon particularly due to the advocacy and bargaining power that were shifting from the management’s discretion to a collective decision across the workers (Shalev, 1983, p417). Due to the several changes that the rest of the society was experiencing in terms of social setting, nearly every sector of the advancing civilization had to take effect especially in relation to welfare.
Strikes at the workplace became an important determinant factor for the employment relationship cultivated inside every organization as the social changes infiltrated into the workplace. In the mid-1990s, it is reported that industrial strikes were many but due to the acclimatization achieved towards the turn of the millennium, relations eased up and fewer employment conflicts were reported (Piazza, 2005, p289). The union revolution had been identified as an invaluable vehicle on which to incessantly press for the acknowledgment of the plight of the ordinary employee against the backdrop of a poor welfare environment. In this discourse, the employment environment necessitating industrial action and strikes is discussed with the help of a film capturing the relational conflicts.
Industrial Relations Setting of the Film- Made in Dagenham
The media and entertainment industry best capture the prevailing events in the society in a direct or indirect way, making an important literature from where the existing times and society can be analyzed pretty accurately. Using the illustration of the film Made in Dagenham- 2010, it is possible to illuminate on the social events prevailing in 1968 and make inferences on the nature of the society setting such as industrial relations. As mentioned above, there was a wave of industrial conflict inspired by the prevailing social transformations which persisted beyond the 1960s. The film is based on the story of a woman in the UK working for Ford which is by far one of the largest private firms with several employees. Based on the fact that the UK was establishing itself as a welfare state to take care of many challenges facing the marginalized at that period of time, it can be expected that the ordinary worker was among those fighting for their plight. It emerges that women, whose employment relations’ fate was determined by their gender status are struggling with the terms of employment at Ford. Women treatment in an unfair working environment is fought against by the employees within the inspiration of the workers’ union, as led by Rita with the help of a steward. Unsupported working environment is depicted by a poor work-life balance where a harsh schooling environment for Rita’s son coupled with an indolent and insensitive husband complete the difficulty in her work-related duties.
It vividly emerges that the motivation she ought to get from her work in order to facilitate her coping with the challenge must be beyond work-life balance. A combination of negative conditions at the work place depicts the difficulty with which Rita and her colleagues must be working in including leaking roofs, extremely hot rooms and poor remuneration terms. Within the backdrop of union representation for a bargaining slot by the ordinary employee, it merges that the hypocritical outfit is corrupt and does not represent the will of the oppressed workers. Rita sparks off a strike at the factory which corresponds with the main national news with discussions in parliament focused on improving industrial relations. Women are clearly discriminated by the retrogressive relations where they are paid less than their male counterparts despite their hard work. Equality and improved working conditions are the main themes of the strike that attracts the attention of Ford headquarters in the US. Foiled investment relations between the US and the UK for failure to strike a working environment reflecting equality for the two genders emerge, eventually ending in a ceasefire among the parties. Women finally manage to get 92 percent of remuneration offered to their male counterparts and commitment for better industrial relations laws assured from the parliament (Enfant, 2010).
Strike in Shaping Employment Relations
Perhaps one of the most definitive attributes of strikes in the industrial setting as observed in the film is their amorphous nature and haphazard organization particularly at the time of unexpected industrial conflict (Jackson 1991, p163). As illustrated by the author, employees are forced to resort to desperate platforms that can assist them to forge a local bargaining with the management in the standoff. Apparently, despite the realization that the women at Ford were being subjected to harsh and inhumane working environment, the union leaders were not willing to assist them come out of the oppression as is its duty. Contrary to this, the union leaders are bribed to keep silent about their role to represent such displeasures. It is upon this realization that the women regroup and find out that they were facing a tough challenge in form of the management and the union in silencing them. Fighting for the rights in a collective bargaining effort only arises due to the compelling factors of the environment resulting in a standoff.
At the time of the strike, employees are left with few options regarding their job safety and better working conditions. It is apparent that the role of the collective bargaining that the parties assume during the standoff is powerful enough to call for a compromise between the parties, with employee satisfaction being central to the negotiations. It would be difficult for the management to shrug off the role of the available human resource pool to the productivity of the organization. It therefore implies that a strike or a threat of a strike is powerful enough to result to a platform of negotiations between the management and the employees. Functional union representation is important during such negotiations since labor laws facilitate the protection of employees from intimidation by the management in case the standoff is not welcome from the management’s perspective. Industrial relations are therefore highly influenced by the presence of an avenue of strikes as illustrated in the film. If Rita and her colleagues did not have the benefit of a strike at Ford, it would have been difficult to counter the stumbling blocks to better industrial relations posing in the form of a corrupt union leadership and an oppressive management. Despite the fact that the UK was undergoing many social changes such the welfare state realignment, it was still difficult to negotiate against men in a patriarchal society witnessing many gender based injustices (Hewitt and Powell, 2002, p121).
Roles of Workers and Employees in an Industrial Strike
In a functional working environment, employees are bound by rules and regulations of the workplace as formulated by the employer. An assumption exists that the employer is the superior of the two and any discontent, if any, should be settled with the employer in a request format. Generally, the employee assumes an inferior role in the relationship, where risks of abuse of the relationship expose the employee as a victim in many instances. Aggravated scenes of discontent among employees coupled with rigid and insensitive management or employer force the employee to turn to unorthodox approach in clearing any standoff. Instead of employees conforming to the usual expectation as per the employer-employee hierarchical relationship, it becomes difficult and a spirit of discord exists. Foiled relationships do not entertain the conventional hierarchical relationship where the employee is supposed to follow every order from the employer. According to Brecher (1997, p275), the state of diligent conformity with the expectation of the hierarchical relationship is disrupted as the employee assumes the role of advocate for self-interests that face serious abuse by the employer. In such a situation, the employee is forced to resort to direct confrontation of barriers to satisfaction of labor motivation thereby creating a discord and disequilibrium to the power balance between employer and employee until the resolution of the standoff. Regrouping of the employees in protest of the terms of engagement with the employer is a powerful weapon of the negotiation game where employees force the shift of power from the employer.
The film’s strike provides a classical example of the employee empowerment through the shift of roles of the employee as Brecher (1997, p275) reckons. Evidently, the roles of the employee in an employment relationship are conventionally to follow the organizational work plan and deliver results. Questioning the employer’s authority in this context can be painted as a negative approach that can ruin the relationship. The employer’s authority and duties in the employment agreement are however brought to sudden review and immediate improvement favoring the employee demanded in the context of a strike. A mass strike puts the authority of the employer or management in a frozen state until the window of negotiations for better working relations is utilized to resolve the standoff. Transformations since the evolution of strikes as a form of resolving heightened industrial standoff have facilitated a radical platform on which oppressed workers can rise against unfavorable employment terms and relations. Since the union revolution, employees have a strong collective bargaining platform that invokes the unstoppable force of a strike to resolve employment relations matters placing them in a disadvantageous position. Unions enable workers to form a united front against intimidation from the employers’ powerful status in the industrial relationships (Hogler, 2004, p68).
Strikes and go-slows represent some of the commonest industrial action tools where employers are forced to consider employment policy affecting and damaging the industrial relationship, which transforms the conventional hierarchical relationship where the employer would assume absolute say in the relationship including oppressing the employer (Boyer, 2001, para.11). In terms of actual transformations, strikes within the backdrop of workers’ unions have been instrumental in enforcing employees’ welfare into the industrial sector to keep up with the pace of social developments witnessed in the recent past. Employees can now forge a common ground and enforce a collective bargain that corresponds with the developments in the other socioeconomic and political scenes of the society. At the end of the strike in the film, several changes including equitable remuneration without gender bias as well as assurances of legal reforms in related industrial relations are achieved.
Changes Achieved from the Strike
In view of the power of strikes as reform tools in the industrial relations issues, strikes can be seen as irreplaceable and necessary evils due to the employees’ welfare benefits obtained to outdo the economic damages sustained upon their occurrence. As illustrated in the film, it was initially difficult for the female employees to forward a substantive grievance to change their plight without a potent threat. It is only after the strike that several undisclosed suffering experiences by the female employees of the recorded date are brought to light. It would perhaps have never been resolved at the highest official level of Ford management had the women not relentlessly come forward. Gender topics in the industrial circles are clearly not successful stories in the news of the setting but the strike shaking one of the major employers in the entire UK manifests the strength of the strike as an important industrial tool. The media is clearly affected by virtue of having covered other industrial conflicts but ignored the gender topic for having a poor encounter. The film highlights the manner in which the legislature is brought to accountability over the lack of gender balance laws and regulations. A commitment by the government to respond by way of legislation to curb the injustices is a manifestation of the impact made by the strike to issues of legal provocation. In a similar magnitude, international relations are captured in the way that Ford headquarters threatens the UK government to provide an enabling environment or force them to relocate. Perhaps international trade issues also emerge in the picture when these two countries cross with differences over the handling of the strike matter.
Unions in Employment the Conflict
Workers’ unions are ostensibly supposed to quell the standoff by taking a protectionist policy in favor of the plight of the employee. Unions provide the platform from which a collective bargain is forged and facilitated through leadership that is in touch with the issues at hand. However, the film depicts the workers’ union as a manipulation platform where corrupt leaders are bribed to silence the role of the employees in the new context of a powerful collective bargaining environment. Despite the fact that the union has a structure at the factory, it is virtually out of touch with the needs of the female employee. This contrast is illuminated on at the meeting where Rita represents the women and passionately presents their grievances.
Role of the Management
The management aims at increasing profitability of the organization by reducing costs and increasing revenues, which may always conflict with employee welfare issues. In the film, the Ford management notoriously gets carried away in making profits and ignores the female employee who employs industrial relations tool at her disposal to overturn the balance of power. The management is depicted throughout the film as a major stumbling block to better industrial relations and the deliberate moves to cut on costs by whichever means lands entire operations into a major challenge. The management is depicted as the main cause of industrial conflicts and the standoff is dependent on the willingness of the management to negotiate with the employee and undertake to compromise on certain welfare decision. The film therefore presents the management as an important determinant in industrial conflicts, particularly regarding their initial origin as the creation of the managements’ insensitivity to the welfare of the employee.
Revelations from Strike
Made in Dagenham is a perfect example of the role of the management and the employer in shaping the nature of industrial relations in the modern welfare environment. In terms of social developments achieved over time, it is expected that the employment environment to which employees are exposed corresponds to the expectations of the society. Employees have a responsibility to shape the future of industrial relations by making contributions that can motivate responsive welfare policy implementation at the industrial and national level. Strikes are powerful mechanisms for use at the workplace to compel insensitive management to respond to employees’ needs. Employees must be vigilant to check their union representatives and leaders for accountability as they may pose as a bigger threat to welfare than the management. It is advisable for every employee to assume a proactive role in fighting for the plight of the employees in case the management is unresponsive to their requests. Industrial relations are many depending on the nature of the society in which the standoff exists, which requires a closer determination from one case to the other.
Boyer, P. S. (2001) Strikes and industrial conflict. [Online] Available from: <http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O119-StrikesandIndustrilCnflct.html> [Accessed 14 December 2011]
Brecher, J. (1997) Strike. Cambridge, MA: South End Press Classics
Ebert, R. (2011) Roger Ebert’s movie yearbook 2012. Kansas City, MO: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Ellis, D. (2011) Conversations with cinematographers. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press
Enfant, T. (2010) Synopsis for Made in Dagenham, [Online] Available from: <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1371155/synopsis> [Accessed 14 December 2011]
Hewitt, M. & Powell, M. (2002) Welfare state and welfare change, Buckingham, UK: Open University Press
Hogler, R. L. (2004) Employment relations in the United States: law, policy, and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE
Jackson, M P. (1991) An introduction to industrial relations. London, UK: Routledge
Piazza, J. A. (2005) Globalizing Quiescence: Globalization, Union Density and Strikes in 15 Industrialized Countries, Economic and Industrial Democracy, vol. 26 no. 2 pp.289-314
Shalev, M. (1983) Strikes and the Crisis: Industrial Conflict and Unemployment in the Western Nations, Economic and Industrial Democracy vol. 4 no. 4 pp.417–460
History free essay: Made in Dagenham (2010) is among the free essays that our company offers with also cheap and affordable essays.The cheapest custom essay writing company is here.