Socialist Worker

Popcorn bribe doesn't halt Picturehouse cinema workers' strike

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2549

Strikers and supporters at East Dulwich

Strikers and supporters at East Dulwich


Workers at the Picturehouse cinema chain struck again today, Saturday.

Their demands include sick pay, maternity pay, paternity pay, and a living wage, which stands at £9.75 an hour in London and £8.45 outside London.

People from five cinema sites walked out and travelled to the East Dulwich cinema to hold a rally. Workers from Brighton travelled to join the protest, despite not being on strike themselves.

This was East Dulwich workers' first time out on strike.

Ben is one of the reps at the cinema. He told Socialist Worker how they built the Bectu sector of the Prospect union to a position where the majority of workers at the site are members.

"We're totally new to this, we wanted to make it fun and raise the public profile of the campaign," he said.

"I heard about the living wage campaign on social media. We sent a message to someone from the Ritzy cinema in Brixton and they came to meet us.

"We began by having one-to-one conversations with people."

Bosses at Picturehouse have tried to deflect workers' demands by pushing the Forum as an alternative to the union, which they only recognise at the Brixton site.

But managers run the Forum.

Choice

Andrea, a rep at the central London site, told Socialist Worker, "We need to focus on recognition of Bectu. All we're asking is to be in the union of our choice and for that union to have rights.

"The only reason we're on the wage we get now is because Bectu negotiated it around the Ritzy strikes."

Clare Binns, director of programming and acquisitions at Picturehouse, came to the picket line in East Dulwich. She took photos of the workers.

Ben said, "I asked her last week, 'What would you do if you were in our position?'

"She said, 'I'd negotiate through the Forum.' She claimed she thought it was an independent trade union."

At a meeting on Wednesday of last week workers at East Dulwich were called to a meeting with head office. They were lavished with free popcorn as managers tried to convince them not to strike.

Binns and other bosses have been travelling around sites trying to convince workers the union is weak. That will come as a surprise to the rapidly growing Bectu membership.

"Before the meeting I asked them to tell us how much it would cost the company for them to pay us the living wage," said Ben. "They said they couldn't work that out."

Bosses haven't had much trouble calculating their profits though. Parent company Cineworld's annual report was published last week. It shows that they made £94 million profit after tax last year. That's an 18 percent increase on the previous year.

And CEO Mooky Greidinger's total pay package now stands at over £2.5 million a year.

The idea that Cineworld can't pay a living wage to its workers when there's enough money splashing around to fund bosses' lives of luxury is obscene.

And workers aren't going to back down. People from every site in the dispute met after the picket lines today to plan their next steps. More strike dates will be announced soon.

"We're prepared to do whatever it takes to win," said Ben.


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