Socialist Worker

Strikes got Ritzy workers new offer—now calling more can win full demands

by Raymie Kiernan
Issue No. 2415

Ritzy strikers and supporters on the picket line in June

Ritzy strikers and supporters on the picket line in June (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse cinema in Brixton, south London have forced an improved pay offer from their bosses.The offer comes after eleven strikes this year demanding the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour. 

The Bectu union, which represents the cinema workers, says the campaign to boycott Picturehouse venues will now be suspended. 

Yet Picturehouse bosses’ offer doesn’t meet the workers’ full demands. 

The two-year deal gives an immediate rise from £7.35 to £8 an hour, backdated to October last year, followed by increases to £8.20 in September and £8.40 in January. The final rise to £8.80 an hour is proposed for September next year. 

It’s clear that without the strikes bosses would have offered nothing.

But by September 2015 the cost of living will have gone up and the London Living Wage (LLW) will be higher than £8.80 an hour.

Further negotiations on future pay increases are not scheduled until June 2016. 

The LLW rate will have risen twice by then and guarantees of a minimum of £9.10 an hour for June 2016 could easily fall short of the cost of living in London.

The workers’ campaign has grown in strength over the last 15 weeks. The one time bosses tried to open on a strike day, many cinema-goers refused to cross the picket line.

Prominent figures from the film industry have publicly backed their struggle and the TUC pledged support for the boycott of Picturehouse cinemas. 

Workers are now set to be ballotted on the offer. They should reject it. Their strikes forced bosses to make an offer they once refused to make. 

Company promises of “a journey of delivery towards higher pay” may well fall on deaf ears. More strikes can win £8.80 an hour now.

They would become a beacon for every low paid worker in London and beyond to wage their own battle for better pay.

Cinema bosses rake it in while paying a pittance

The Ritzy in Brixton, south London is the flagship cinema of arthouse chain Picturehouse. 

Cinema giant Cineworld bought out the previous Picturehouse owners City Screen in 2012 in a deal worth nearly £50 million. Cineworld has 102 cinemas and more screens than any other operator in Britain.

Along with Odeon and Vue, the three operators control nearly 73 percent of box office revenues, totalling over £1 billion last year. And at the beginning of this year Cineworld doubled in size in a half a billion pound deal to buy Cinema City International. 

This has now made Cineworld the second largest cinema operator in Europe. Despite the cost of the deal Cineworld still made over £30 million profit last year.

Yet multi-millionaire Picturehouse director Lyn Goleby told Ritzy workers they couldn’t be paid a living wage “without risking job losses across the wider Picturehouse group”. Goleby reportedly got a £15,000 pay rise last year. Ritzy workers got 29p more an hour.

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