‘Wreckers in Coventry: No Christmas money for the kids’ (Women’s Voice, 1975)

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CHRISTMAS IS coming and the goose is getting fat… Not in my house it isn’t – nor I’m sure in the houses of a few thousand other women, whose husbands work in Chrysler, Coventry. They’re being laid off because there’s no work – or so they’re told.

This week my husband who works at the Stoke engine plant is off for one whole week. After that it’ll probably be one week in, one week out till God knows when. At the moment he receives lay-off pay of 70 per cent of the basic wage. To some people that may seem fair enough – but when you get used to a certain amount each week, it’s difficult to accept a cut. And the lay-off pay soon runs out – they’re only allowed so many hours. Then they’ll join the one million or so unemployed on the dole.

For me these lay-offs mean I’ve had to go out and get a job – cleaning, which I loathe. The money I earn isn’t for the little extras I wanted to buy for my kids’ Christmas, but to supplement the loss of the old man’s wage.

Everyone in Coventry seems to be in the same boat. A couple of months ago, I used to go and browse through second-hand shops to pass a bit of time. Now I find myself queuing up outside to see if I can get something for my kids. My situation is bad but I know friends who are worse off than me. One of them has a mortgage of £80 a month. And believe me, she doesn’t live in a mansion. Rates are £12 plus gas and electricity. She has a six month old baby, and is now having to think about going out to work. The sort of job she’ll get is one where she already knows someone to get her in. At the moment the only thing open to her is auxiliary nursing working nights.

I could go on writing about situations like this all day, but the more I think about it the more worried and depressed I get. I know the situation is the same everywhere. Nothing will have changed in the households of the gaffers. I bet they’ll still have their fat turkeys and full Christmas stockings – got by stealing from the workers.

I hope they spare a thought for the hundreds of kids who through them, their ignorance and greed, will be facing the most dismal Christmas for a long time.

Women’s Voice – November 1975 (paper edition) No 23

By Maureen Enever

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