Glorified typists in no-man's land: the ABC script assistants' strike of 1973

Jeannine Baker, Jane Connors

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In 1973 women television script assistants at the Australian Broadcasting Commission went on strike over pay and conditions – the first ever strike at the organisation. This article examines the background, impact and significance of the strike within the context of the sexual division of labour in broadcasting, and industrial relations legislation and practices. It draws on archival documents and oral history interviews to uncover the agency, emotions and mobilisation of a group of female white-collar workers who have not been previously portrayed as politically active. It demonstrates that there is a longer tradition of women’s organising than indicated in the historiography of Australian broadcasting, and argues that the women’s anger and their organisational strategies challenged gendered structures and processes within the ABC and its staff union. By examining the link between gender and occupational status, it demonstrates that script assistants experienced considerable barriers to upward mobility and were denied access to equal pay because they were working in a feminised occupation. While the script assistants’ militancy succeeded in briefly arresting sexist attitudes and practices within ABC television, structural discrimination throughout the organisation proved resistant to change.
LanguageEnglish
JournalWomen's History Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020

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typist
strike
broadcasting
assistant
television
militancy
occupational status
industrial relations
oral history
division of labor
historiography
anger
mobilization
occupation
emotion
discrimination
legislation
staff
worker
gender

Keywords

  • Broadcasting
  • Industrial relations
  • Labour History
  • Emotions
  • Unions
  • Australian Broadcasting Commission

Cite this

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abstract = "In 1973 women television script assistants at the Australian Broadcasting Commission went on strike over pay and conditions – the first ever strike at the organisation. This article examines the background, impact and significance of the strike within the context of the sexual division of labour in broadcasting, and industrial relations legislation and practices. It draws on archival documents and oral history interviews to uncover the agency, emotions and mobilisation of a group of female white-collar workers who have not been previously portrayed as politically active. It demonstrates that there is a longer tradition of women’s organising than indicated in the historiography of Australian broadcasting, and argues that the women’s anger and their organisational strategies challenged gendered structures and processes within the ABC and its staff union. By examining the link between gender and occupational status, it demonstrates that script assistants experienced considerable barriers to upward mobility and were denied access to equal pay because they were working in a feminised occupation. While the script assistants’ militancy succeeded in briefly arresting sexist attitudes and practices within ABC television, structural discrimination throughout the organisation proved resistant to change.",
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Glorified typists in no-man's land : the ABC script assistants' strike of 1973. / Baker, Jeannine; Connors, Jane.

In: Women's History Review, 2020.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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