Picturehouse campaigners reject ‘disgraceful’ management’s new threats

Workers employed by the Picturehouse cinema chain at Brixton’s Ritzy and BECTU, their union, have reacted to convoluted new legal threats with an angry challenge to managers.

BECTU members at Picturehouse cinemas in London and Brighton are campaigning to be paid the Living Wage – £9.75 an hour in London.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell last night pledged the support of the Labour Party for the campaigners.

In an email to all staff, Picturehouse managing director Renana Teperberg has claimed that strikes planned for this week – coinciding with the London Film Festival – no longer have a valid mandate.

He says a deal with an in-house, management-backed “staff forum” means workers would be striking “for less than Picturehouse is currently paying”.

BECTU and its members have responded to his suggestion that the strikes should be called off by challenging Picturehouse to see a legal injunction to stop the strikes – which would test the validity of its claims in court.

The cinema chain has ignored the challenge.

Neither has Picturehouse responded to an earlier challenge to back up its claim that it is already paying the London Living Wage by seeking accreditation from Living Wage UK.

BECTU described this refusal as “disgraceful”. The current phase of the campaign for the living wage has lasted more than a year and included dozens of strikes.

The management email contained another oblique and threatening hint that strikers would be sacked – an action that would be likely to be overturned at an employment tribunal.

Four Ritzy union reps and BECTU have taken the cinema chain to the employment tribunal over their sacking earlier this year.

Shadow chancellor John McDonnell branded as “disgraceful” the threat.

He said:”Workers at these cinemas have been running an inspiring campaign for the past year to demand a decent wage. I am shocked at the way they have been treated by Picturehouse and to threaten them with dismissal if they go on strike is disgraceful.

“They have every right to strike, and I will join them again on the picket lines if they do.

“The Labour Party will stand with the Picturehouse strikers, and with low paid precarious workers everywhere, to win a living wage and decent working conditions.

“Labour will introduce a real living wage of £10 an hour when we go into government.”