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Muriel Browning


Don’t Condone Night Work

(September 1976)

From Militant, No. 321, 10 September 1976, p. 11.
Transcribed by Iain Dalton.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

In her article on night shifts for women [Militant, No. 318] Chris Nicholls says she wants to “fight for better conditions and amenities for all women workers.” I could not agree with her more. This is why as a shop steward in the TGWU I oppose nightshift working for women!

There is mention in the article of the hazards of night shift working and the ruinous effects it has on health. According to medical reports a women’s whole body cycle changes [also the same for men incidentally]. We all know what happens when you try and change machinery: there are inevitable break downs. The same thing happens to the delicate machinery of our bodies.

Lack of sleep, consumption and loss of appetite, to name just a few, can lead to a complete breakdowns resulting in a couple of days or a week or two on the sick. Chris Nicholls would be a very fortunate woman if she has worked permanent night work for three years without it affecting her health at all.

I believe that it is a fallacy for women to believe that when they work night shift they are also able to be with their children during the day. The only way this is possible if the mother is severely deprived of sleep during the day. What use is a tired irritable mother to her children! This would certainly not be to the children’s benefit. Not to mention the increased burden placed on the father who would also have to do his 8 hour stint.

The Sex Discrimination Act has helped to create another fallacy:– women should have the “freedom of choice”. The trade union leadership, whilst paying lip service to opposing night shift working for women, have made no serious attempt to prevent employers using the loop holes in the new legislation.

It is left to each plant in each industry to conduct their own fight against the introduction of night shift [... misprint ...] Equal Pay Act it is only where there is a strong union organisation can the women combat their further exploitation by the bosses.

A classic example of this was at the Ford plant in Dagenham. The women, supported by the men, who led the fight for equal pay have also resisted all attempts by the company to foist night working on the women in exchange for equal pay.

There was no choice for Chris Nicholls either. She could only work night shift.

I must agree that night shifts are necessary to the industrial economy of this country. Under a capitalist economy it is essential that the employers utilise plant and machinery to its maximum capacity. These machines need operators who are also used to their maximum capacity. This includes excessive overtime and night shift working.

Under the present system the working class have no “rights to work the hours we choose or earn the kind of money we want to earn.” Whilst we realise this and have sympathy with the women who are forced to do it we cannot condone neither can we accept a worker trying to justify night shift working.

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