A mix-up at the Imperial Typewriters factory in Leicester saw an Asian woman mistakenly given the pay packet of a white colleague. Shocked to be getting paid less than white workers of the same grade, a group of 39 workers, mostly women, led a walk out.
Over two-thirds of workers at Imperial Typewriters were South Asian. The discrepancy in pay was part of wider discrimination against non-white workers at the factory that ‘you could feel but not overtly see.’ White workers did not support the strike and the local Transport and General Workers Union (TGWU) branch refused to make the strike official.
Strikers also received critical coverage in the press, referred to as ‘troublemakers’. Pickets were attacked and the National Front marched in opposition. The strike held firm and picket lines were loud and boisterous with young people determined to play a role. Workers gained some concessions from management, but without union support they eventually returned to the factory.
Five months after the strike ended, the owners closed the factory and moved production abroad. Disappointed but proud, the mainly female Asian workers had shown that they were not a pushover and they deserved respect and equality. They demonstrated that they knew their rights and were prepared to fight for them, challenging racist discrimination and sexist expectations and attitudes.
Content by Divya Ghelani, Marc Boothe, B3 Media, Iris Lightfoote, and Bradley Phipps.