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A collection of interviews and photographs recorded by Women's Archive of Wales in 2013-14

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VSE081 Anonymous, Slumberwear, Barry;Sidroy's Lingerie, Barry

Contract work in Sidroy’s Lingerie and Slumberwear, Barry. The speaker worked for his father’s building firm maintaining (c.1964-8) the buildings etc at the factory. Locally Sidroy’s was called the knicker factory but they made all kinds of underwear there. He was very scared of the women, their language was very forthright and they would de-bag the boys and men if they were too sure of themselves – stripping them and covering them with grease. It happened to him once – his father had warned him. He felt the girls’ work was very monotonous. The women wanted to keep the men in their place.

VSW038 Anonymous, Slimma, Cardigan

The speaker left school at 16 (1964) and went straight into Slimma’s, as a machinist making children’s dresses and belts. Then her eyes failed and she couldn’t do the belts, so left. She went to work in a hotel. In the factory they weren’t allowed to talk and it was quite noisy. The supervisor watched them all the time. Certain favoured workers offered overtime. She preferred working in the hotel.

VSW029 Anonymous, Revlon 'powder puff' factory, Pontardawe;Belt making factory, Ynysmeudwy

The speaker had to leave school because her father wasn’t well and go to work in the belt factory. Within a year she was a supervisor. She could bring work home to earn extra money. She doesn’t feel they were well treated – they had to work hard. The smell of glue was very strong. The factory closed after 2½ years and she moved to Revlon, where she worked for further 2½ years. She left when she became pregnant..

VSW030 Anonymous, Berleis, Pontardawe;Anglo-Celtic Watch Co. (inc. Smith's Industries and Ingersoll aka 'Tick Tock'), Ystradgynlais;Economics, Pontardawe

The speaker describes her upbringing. She left school to work in Woolworths’ before moving to the Tick Tock factory (c.1958), where she earned ‘a lot of money’. She left when she became pregnant (c.1965). When the children were small she started at the Economics making drums for the Mond Works (c.1970-1). This was dirty work in noisy, poor conditions. She moved to Berlei’s to work in the canteen (c. 1971-81) and became the manageress. She describes buying bras for sixpence, timing toilet breaks, ‘top payers’, unionism, music, a trip with the Merthyr factory on the train to London. When the factory closed she went back to Tick Tock (Rover works) (1983-99). She became a supervisor and got her cap and gown for business management.

VSW024 Anonymous, Slimma-Dewhirst, Goodwick

The speaker left school at 15 (1970) and went to work in Slimma’s Cardigan, following an open day at her school. She was given a machine test. She started in waistbands, then on to pockets. They had to keep up with their line or it would affect everyone’s pay. She lagged behind because she was left-handed. Tiring and tedious but skilled work. She stayed 33 years. Pressers (men) paid more than machinists. The union and disputes about working conditions. Over-locking and fire threading were dirty jobs.. Not qualified as a machinist until you have a needle through your finger. Health and Safety. Recording work on tickets. She had hearing problems – she turned her hearing aid off on the factory floor. She has a deteriorating disk form sitting all day. Xmas time was pandemonium. Everyone was on best behaviour for the M&S visits. She was devastated when she was made redundant – she misses going to work.

VSW022 Anonymous, Slimma-Dewhirst, Goodwick

The speaker left school at 16 (1978) and started in Slimma’s – the manager had visited her school and offered her a sewing job. She started on bar-tacking, progressed to turning garments and then the loop machine. It was difficult. The factory was noisy and hot. Discounts in factory shop c. 50% for trousers, cardigans and shoes. Help with reaching targets. Lack of sympathy when she needed leave. She felt proud she made clothes for M&S. She lost a nail in a machine – compensation. Health and Safety – no bags on the floor, no coats on the back of chairs. Not allowed to talk – it would affect targets. She was given a mask because of the dust. Blowing and polishing her machine. Made redundant when factory closed – 2002 – this was a shock and she hasn’t worked since. She received a watch for 20 years’ service.

VSW007 Anonymous, Morris Motors (Nuffields), Llanelli

The speaker left school at 15 in 1959 and after working for poor wages in a shop, she started working in Morris Motors in 1962 ‘the happiest years of my life’. She says the people said ‘factory girls, common’ but there were no fights or bad language. More sociable hours in the factory. She was offered to go to Oxford to learn to train new workers, but she was pregnant. Given her notice to finish at 6½ months (1969). Members of her family working there too. She returned (1970-4) as supervisor on evenings. She worked in the Co-op afterwards. In Morris Motors she liked the steady job, the holidays, the happy atmosphere. The workers in Oxford got higher wages for the same work. Conditions: rubber gloves; a surgery and nurse; accidents; the cold; singing to Workers’ Choice; her husband’s disapproval. British Leyland stopped the bonuses – now targets per hour. Fun on Xmas Eve. She felt valued in the factory because she and her twin sister (VSW006) were good workers.

VSW013 Anonymous, Slimma-Dewhirst, Cardigan

The speaker left school at 15 (1968) and started in Slimma’s. It had been Calders previously. Slimma’s made two way stretch – ski pants. Her first job was packing, then labels. She felt old-fashioned compared to the other girls – mini-skirts, platform heels, smoking and going to the pub. No targets. No union. When Dewhirst came in (several takeovers later) there were hard targets, unions. Slimma’s girls ironing their hair! Heavy metal music. When pregnant you worked up to a few weeks before birth and returned in so many weeks – your job was kept open for you. She left when pregnant (c.1972) and returned c.1980. Totally changed: learning more skills; pay depended on reaching targets; and compensation for sewing through finger. She notes the Eaton system checking on performance – terrible; cheating; good overtime pay; reputation of factory girls; boy machinists – problems; how supervisors got their jobs; swearing and the union and some stealing garments. She had carpal tunnel syndrome from hemming – went into auditing and then back as machinist. Social club with trips e.g. to Ireland. Made redundant 2002.

VSW006 Anonymous, Morris Motors (Nuffields), Llanelli

The speaker left school in 1959 at 15 and started work at the factory in 1960. Her mother got her the job. She worked on the radiators. Piece-work. They didn’t stop to talk. Target - a score in an hour. Mainly women doing the radiators – men wouldn’t do it. Only boys were accepted as apprentices. Women left when they were 6½ months pregnant. Jobs were not kept open - she left in 1971. She went back to work after the children were born – four hours in the evening. Women got the full-rate at eighteen and men at twenty one. Men’s wages always larger than the women’s. Perks- discount off a car – a Mini perhaps. Unionism. Conditions: wearing rubber gloves because of with acid; accidents – one boy lost a finger; cold; Worker’s Choice over the radio. She mentions working in the ice-cream factory in Pembrey where the conveyor belt made her faint. The Morris Motors Club – Xmas parties for the children.

VSE068 Anonymous, Louis Edwards, Maesteg;George Webb Shoes, Bridgend

The speaker left school at 15 (1964) and started in the Louis Edwards Factory, making women’s clothes. She is dyslexic but she could pass every test on the sewing machine. She made collars and cuffs. She was earning double her husband’s wage in the colliery. She left when she had her first baby. She returned to Louis Edwards but then moved to the shoe factory. She hated this job – completely different sewing. She then pursued a nursing career for 10 years. She talks of walk outs and sitting in the road. They collected for birthday presents and also for new babies. Buying reject dresses for £1. Piecework. Making similar dresses for the annual outings. Helping others to finish their work and earning double their pay for it. If you made a mistake you would come in early to correct it. Buying sweets on Friday afternoons – no work done. She was in George Webb’s for only six weeks. In between having children she worked for Revlon and Channel. Needles in fingers – no work no pay.