By Nisha Damji and Tim Dickens
The Ritzy has banned the April edition of the Brixton Bugle as part of an ongoing dispute with the cinema’s staff over pay.
The film theatre’s manager, Rob Belfield, removed all copies of the newspaper from the foyer on Friday, because of a front page article about the campaign for a ‘living wage’ for staff at the Picturehouse Cinemas-owned theatre.
A ballot of BECTU union members over strike action closes today (Monday). It was triggered when bosses at Picturehouse Cinemas refused a pay increase for all staff in line with the London Living Wage (LLW), currently £8.80 per hour.
Belfield told the Blog that he and his head office felt it was unsuitable to have copies of the newspaper on display while there was an ongoing industrial dispute with his employees.
Critically acclaimed film director, Ken Loach, has also waded into the row, calling on the Ritzy’s owners to increase basic pay from the current £7.24 per hour.
In a letter to Picturehouses, Loach said: “Everyone has the right to a living wage.
“It is sad and shocking that the Ritzy Cinema, which has an image of being radical and progressive, should fail to do this”.
Members of BECTU, the UK’s media and entertainment trade union, have been in long running talks with their employers over the pay rise.
The LLW is calculated according to the basic cost of living in London and those in favour of the Living Wage say that it benefits business, the individual and society.
Nia Hughes, branch secretary for BECTU, who also works at the cinema, said: “We don’t want to go on strike, we don’t want to be having these meetings but we are left with no choice as the company will not budge”.
The union is looking to secure the LLW as the minimum rate for all workers at the cinema, and for Picturehouse Cinemas to commit to continue paying it going forward.
Hughes added: “That ensures people who work here in the future will all earn a reasonable wage.”
The Brixton Blog, which publishes the Bugle, has worked closely with the cinema since the website launched four years ago, and the monthly local newspaper is usually distributed in the cinema’s bar and foyer.
The Blog was also the media partner for the recent Human Rights Watch Film Festival and photography exhibition.
The Blog hopes to start stocking the Brixton Bugle at the Ritzy again from next Month.
Staff have also received support from local activists from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).
A spokesperson for Picturehouse Cinemas said: “We have always tried to be a fair employer that pays fair rates, and we are one of the highest paying employers in Brixton and in the cinema industry.”
“It is important that everyone has their say, but industrial action will not speed up the process towards better pay for everyone – in fact it could well hinder our aims for this.”
The ballot closes on Monday March 31 and campaigners urged readers to support them by following @RitzyLivingWage or by visiting www.facebook.com/RitzyLivingWage.