The Freemans Five



In 1970 Barbara Castle introduced an Equal Pay Act to come into force in 1975. The European Economic Community, which the UK had just joined, pointed out that the Act did not meet the standards of the EEC’s own policy since it did not cover “work of equal value”.

By 1983 this had been rectified and Freemans’ worker Rene Pickstone asked the Transport & General Workers Union Officer, Sid Simms, to make a claim, comparing the workload of female pickers with that of a male warehouseman. In 1984 Rene and four other women took the issue to tribunal, arguing they were doing work of equal value and yet were being paid less.

Freemans defended itself by pointing out there were men working as pickers and women working with the men in the warehouse. It takes nine years.

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“I was reading a woman’s magazine and I thought well there’s something in this equal pay thing, so I just sent away for this booklet.”


1985 – first tribunal (Cambridge) rejects women’s claim due to interpretation of “equal value”

1986 – appeal tribunal (London) rejects women’s appeal as it claims EU law does not trump UK law.

1987 – Royal Court of Appeal (London Royal Courts of Justice) agrees that under EU law the women may have a case but asks the House of Lords judiciary to decide.

1988 – Final Court of Appeal, three Lords Judges agree with the women and send it back to tribunal.

1989-92 – each side appoints work evaluation experts along with an Independent Expert for the Tribunal to assess and compare the jobs.

1993 – final tribunal (Bedford) accepts a three point difference in the job evaluation with pickers on 19 and warehouse men on 22. The women win their victory

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“Oh yeah, always optimistic with Sid, he was our rock. He said 'Don’t worry, we’ll get there. It may take time'. Little did he know, bless his heart, but we did get there.”

“When something happened, and I said ‘That’s not fair, that’s not right’ my Dad said to me, ‘Well if things don’t change, they stay as they are, Irene.”

“We have considered the 2 or 3 point score difference. We are satisfied that this difference is not one which in the real world can be regarded as a material difference such as to justify the jobs being regarded as anything other than of equal value.”