I stood there putting on my purple lipstick, in front of the mirror in the hall above the phone. I was waiting for some shit to hit, I breathed in deeply and combed my hair and adjusted my miss-match of thrown together hand-me-downs and H&M chic…
-Err, make it yourself.
-And…and this house is a fucking mess and look at the kids they look a mess too.
Here we go!
-That’s cus I’m on strike.
-I know that… on strike from the factory, for equal pay…not on strike from here like!
-Ah yes, I wanted to mention that. As of this week, we are also on strike from this shit; one day a week…from housework and child rearing and while we are at it, on strike from picking up after yous!
Shit…I waited for the backlash.
-On strike from me, why?
Jesus Christ, this is gonna be harder than I thought.
-You have to ask me that? So some of our guys realise what we actually do. So, not only do we get shat on from a great height at work we have to come home to be shat on again!
-I help round the house.
-Do you? Do you really…well, let’s see how you get on for a week.
-Where you off to then, the kids need to get ready for school!
-I’m off to do brunch then onto the picket line….you sort um out!
I had a lump in my throat but quickly grabbed my fake fur coat, tied the blue scarf into a bow on top of my head, slipped on my motorbike boots and flounced out the door.
I strode with my head in the air, past the purple rinsed brigade at the bus stop, passed the builders who stopped to stare a little, I ignored the whistle…
I strode down the road towards the bus stop…me, The Fabulous Jackie Buree!
Me and the girls met in Café Bonhomie…We ordered avocado on toast and cheese toasties and muffins and banana breads; and flat whites and lattes…and got stuck in, yapping as we lapped.
I loved my girls…Tania; a heavy drinking Saturday night shagger of lucky but frightened men. And Melanie a single mum who packed a Jamaican punch in her mouth and took no shit from the wasters who hovered round her, though she always fell for the worst of them, who left her in bits in the end.
We had all been sacked. Sacked for talking to a woman’s web site.
We had exposed the harsh conditions of the computer motherboard factory. Long hours, short breaks, hazardous fumes from the materials, burns from the soldering irons. And short term contracts and no union.
And the job had always been shit but recently things had got worse because of more and more unrealistic production targets being handed out.
We were working too fast, taking too many risks and not getting enough breaks; and the stress levels were affecting everyone…tiredness, and extreme irritability. And I saw depression set in on quite a few faces.
Also, we were expected to put in more overtime, which didn’t go down too well at home obviously, though the guys enjoyed the extra cash.
Instead of stepping in most of our men just bitched about the house and the kids being neglected!
Us three had had enough…over wines in the local we planned to do something, we weren’t sure what at first, but we read shit on Facebook, we had liked women’s group pages on Facebook, and we read, when we had time; when we had five minutes to ourselves at the end of the day. When the kids were in bed and the old man watching a Champions League match on a Tuesday or Wednesday.
I got a glass and me smokes and surfed baby! I felt in touch with the world for a change. And found out stuff, interesting stuff.
We got in touch with a woman Journalist from a Woman’s action group web site. We met the journalist in a wine bar and gave her all our grievances…She wrote an article and it got passed around online and Eventually it got discussed in a Guardian article…that stirred up the shit I can tell you!
So they sacked us, three women when they discovered who had leaked the article.
So, all 136 women had walked out the gates in support and we weren’t even in a union. And now the fabulous three sat in meetings with the same management, along with other striking women.
-We want an end to piece time production; we want meetings about realistic production targets.
-But we have to make profits and meet order targets.
-By squeezing us, and anyway look at where that has got you, now you have no production.
-We also want proper break times and better staff facilities, better toilets as well.
-And showers and rest rooms and better food choices from a proper canteen.
-We are all working mothers; we need proper food not some baguette from a machine.
-We want a proper in house canteen, not a big thing, we know some women in the town who could provide us with the service.
-They do great soups and salads.
-And don’t forget the cheese cake.
-Ladies, ladies. These all seem all a bit mad, these demands don’t you think?
-Not mad no! We are women, you employ women and we want a better and different way of doing things.
-Also, we want reinstatement for the fab three and union recognition.
– Regular sit downs and pow wows…slowing of the production pace and regular breaks and better facilities…that’s all.
-We’ll get back to you.
The suited side gathered their files stuffed their briefcases and left, in a bit of a huff.
The media got more interested; cus the women spread the dispute, to a strike at home. They got interested in the day off…local woman’s groups and local women workers took up the cause…all were ready for the day off…. …Women’s organizations spread the word about the day off throughout the country.
The Day Off event organizers got radio stations, television, and newspapers to run stories about gender-based discrimination and lower wages for women. The event soon garnered international attention.
The company was taking a battering not only from the media and the bad publicity but from men…men everywhere who were not looking forward to the day off.
-But Jackie…what about picking Jane up from gymnastics?
-Timetables on the fridge.
-Foods in the supermarket, you know where that is right? Recipes on Google. I’m off out…
-To a meeting again?
In the pub, the meeting was over quickly.
-So, we just stay on strike until they cave, and we have a day off every week so our husbands appreciate us more…all in favour…aye!
-Actually, I would like to raise the possibility of a permanent strike at home…
-Let’s not push it…our demand on the firm may be granted but the stuff at home make take a longer fight.
They all laughed, wolfed their gins down, grabbed their bags and coats and headed for legends….Ladies night….strippers.
Nick Gerrard is originally from Birmingham but now living in Olomouc where he writes, proof-reads and edits, and in between looking after his son Joe, edits and designs Jotters United Lit-zine. Nick has been at one time or another a Chef, activist, union organiser, punk rocker, teacher, traveller and Eco-lodge owner in Malawi and Czech. Short stories, flash and poetry have appeared in various magazines in print and online including Etherbooks, Roadside fiction, The Siren, Minor Literature and Bluehour magazine. Nick has three books published available on Amazon. His latest Punk Novelette is all about a group of friends growing up with punk in 70s in the UK and the effect the movement had on their lives.