I work the twilight shift, 5.15 to 9.45 at night in Gray Dunn’s biscuit factory. Twilight shifts are supposed to be of great benefit to women with children who want to go out to work, but who would think that 24 hours could revolve around 4 ½ hours on the conveyer belt?
My family life is practically nil. All my time is taken up with organising my life to suit my job. The only time I see my husband is for one hour at night when we are both tired. He often has to work overtime at the weekends to.
I get up at 7.45 and get Sean, my oldest boy, ready for school. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are more hectic than usual as these are playgroup days for Julie, my other child. You would have thought this would give me a bit of a break, but it only lasts from 9.30 to 11.30 and there is hardly time to get back home in between. So I just stay there.
I get home with Julie after 12, make the lunch, rush through the day’s housework in time for Sean to come home from school at 3pm. I give him a quick snack and then get both of them ready to take to my mother-in-laws’s for 3.50, in time for me to start my shift.
There are about 400 women working on the twilight shift. It’s the time when they can get out and leave their husbands to look after the kids. But there’s no peace either in the conveyor belt. This factory works 24 hours, non-stop production. You need to be able to lip read to survive, the machinery is so noisy. The building is antiquated, safety standards are at a minimum, and there’s little protective clothing.
Because the union is very weak in the factory there is little consultation between the shop stewards and the workers, no union meetings and there are no shop stewards at all for some sections. There is no provision for union meetings during working hours so for us it is impossible to ever got to a meeting anyway. No wonder women workers are uninterested in the union. All of this makes it very difficult for those of us who would like to see a change.
One way I see of solving this is by informing women of what is really going on in the factory, and what their rights are. This can be done by producing Womens Voice leaflets encouraging women to take part in union activities and so feel less isolated.
We have already done this in some women’s factories in Glasgow and we’re going to do in mine after this article has started the ball rolling!
A biscuit worker
Glasgow Womens Voice
Women’s Voice 13, January 1978