Workers at Brixton’s Ritzy cinema will join colleagues from four other Picturehouse cinemas in strikes this weekend as they step up their campaign for a living wage.
Workers at the cinemas have been campaigning since last September for the Living Wage (currently £9.75 in London and £8.45 elsewhere, as set by the Living Wage Foundation).
The Picturehouse cinema chain and its owners Cineworld continue to refuse to negotiate, despite Cineworld making a £93.8 million profit in 2016.
Its CEO Moshe Greidinger doubled his pay to £2.588 million from £1.213 million in 2015.
Saturday’s action will take the total number of strike days at Picturehouse cinemas in the last seven months to more than 40.
It will also be the first strike by East Dulwich Picturehouse members of BECTU, the cinema workers sector of the Prospect trade union. Members there will walk out at 1pm and the strike will run until 5am on Sunday.
Strikers in East Dulwich and Brixton will be joined by Hackney Picturehouse, Crouch End Picturehouse, and Picturehouse Central workers, who will demonstrate outside the East Dulwich cinema.
Strikes at the other sites will run for 24 hours from 5am on Saturday 15 April.
East Dulwich Picturehouse worker Ben Lennon said: “We at East Dulwich have seen the campaign growing and it’s become clear that we need to be a part of it.
“It isn’t just about Picturehouse. It’s about all workers, especially those below the national average pay.
“People should not be forced into work when they are ill or face being unable to pay their rent.
“We should not live in fear of having our hours drastically reduced in quieter months.
“It’s about justice, a more equal distribution of income, and taking a significant step towards a fairer society.”
Picturehouse has opted to try to keep cinemas open during strikes, drafting in workers, including managers, from other cinemas.
Before the last strikes on March 31, Picturehouse hired and trained workers who were then asked to work their first shifts covering for striking colleagues.
The new staff were told they would not be working at a specific cinema (unlike most Picturehouse staff who are assigned to one cinema) and that they needed to be available for work at short notice.
Alisdair Cairns from Hackney Picturehouse said: “It felt pretty vindictive of Picturehouse to plaster a giant job advertisement all over our front doors when we had been told by managers that we weren’t hiring.
“We assumed it was so they could publicly declare how much we’re paid, although we don’t think paying below the living wage is anything for them to be proud of.
“As it turns out, they were recruiting strike-breakers – which is even worse.
“We feel really bad for the new staff, who hadn’t even been told there would be a strike on that day. What an awful position to be put in without proper warning. It’s so not an acceptable way for Picturehouse to introduce new staff to the company.”
The BECTU campaigners have been calling for a boycott of Picturehouse and their owners Cineworld since 25 February. This has been endorsed by many top film industry names including Michael Palin, Tony Robinson, Richard Curtis, Susan Sarandon, Sir Patrick Stewart, local resident Sir Mark Rylance and Ken Loach.
Members of BECTU at the Ritzy, Hackney, Crouch End and Picturehouse Central voted 96.8% in favour of industrial action against Picturehouse and Cineworld’s refusal to negotiate on their demands for the London Living Wage; company sick pay for all staff; company maternity/paternity/adoption pay; and pay rises for supervisors, managers, chefs, projectionists and sound technicians.
BECTU members at the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton voted 100% for strike action.
East Dulwich Picturehouse members voted 88% in favour of strike action on a 94% turnout.
Workers at the Duke of York’s, Hackney Picturehouse, Picturehouse Central and Crouch End Picturehouse are also demanding that their employers recognise the BECTU Sector of Prospect as their chosen representative.
Ritzy workers started the living wage campaign in the summer of 2014, when they went on strike 13 times to secured a 26% pay rise. Yet they are still paid at a rate below the London Living Wage, £9.10 an hour. Workers at Hackney Picturehouse are paid only £9.05 an hour.