Cineworld, the owner of the Picturehouse chain that runs Brixton’s Ritzy, has said it would meet union representatives to try to resolve the dispute over cinema workers’ demands to be paid a living wage, as long as they “act in good faith”.
Campaigners in the Ritzy and five other cinemas have been striking at intervals since last summer to reinforce their demands.
At Cineworld’s annual meeting in Wandsworth yesterday, three Picturehouse workers urged company chair Tony Bloom to pay the living wage. He said the company would be happy to meet union reps, adding the “good faith” condition.
Ritzy worker Natalie Parsons, who is also a Picturehouse shareholder, told the meeting that when the Ritzy is closed by a strike on a Saturday, the company loses £20,000.
Edward Bauer, who works at the Hackney Picturehouse, said: “I’m paid £9.05 per hour for nine hours. I can’t live on popcorn and free cinema tickets. It’s a struggle. We genuinely believe that staff in London and elsewhere deserve the security of having wages pegged to the cost of living.”
Bloom claimed Picturehouse pay rates were the highest in the industry, at £9.05 an hour in London (Ritzy staff are paid £9.10 an hour) and £8.18 outside the capital. Including paid 30-minute breaks, he said, this was worth £9.65 an hour – “within inches”, of the London living wage of £9.75,
But other cinemas, including the Curzon and BFI pay the full London living wager.
The campaigners belong to the Bectu cinema workers’ section of the large Prospect trade union. Delegates to its full annual conference in Brighton earlier this month gave the campaigners full backing.
To begin with, Bectu represented 50 workers at the Ritzy where the campaign began in 2014, but now has more than 300 members at other cinemas who have been on strike.
Ben Lennon, who works at the East Dulwich Picturehouse, told the shareholders’ meeting: “It’s very difficult to pay rent in London on a zero-hours contract. I pay rent and I don’t have much left after that.”
About 70% of Cineworld’s front-of-house staff in the UK – 3,750 including 700 at Picturehouse – are on zero-hours contracts.
Cineworld revenues grew by 21.3% between 1 January and 11 May.