Socialist Worker

Picturehouse strikers defy bosses' attacks on their union

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2561

John McDonnell joined the picket line at the Ritzy cinema in south London

John McDonnell joined the picket line at the Ritzy cinema in south London (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Bosses at the Picturehouse cinema chain thought that victimising trade unionists would take the wind out of workers’ sails. But their attacks have been met with more resistance. 

Workers at five Picturehouse cinemas in London struck for the London Living Wage of £9.75 and maternity, paternity and sick pay yesterday, Saturday. It was the latest walkout by the members of the Bectu section of the Prospect union in their long-running dispute. 

After joining the People's Assembly demonstration in central London, they travelled to the Ritzy cinema to join the picket line and protest against the sackings.

“For every single rep they sack, another will pop up, in their place,” one of the new Ritzy reps told Socialist Worker. "We will not be intimidated.”

Three reps have been sacked at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, south London. A fourth rep is due to hear the outcome of their disciplinary hearing. Eight workers were suspended initially at two of the Picturehouse sites. 

The sackings are increasingly looking like a desperate move by the bosses.

The company's sham internal union, the Forum, is set to begin pay negotiations soon despite workers demanding their Bectu union should negotiate on their behalf. 

The firm would likely not be doing that if it had not been for the strike campaign.

Defeat 

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke to the rally in Brixton about how bosses have been victimising workers for centuries. “Their tactic has been to cut off the head and sack organisers,” he said. 

“The way to defeat employers like this is with solidarity.”

Other speakers included local Labour MP Helen Hayes and Guardian newspaper columnist Owen Jones.

People from the areas around the cinemas have been holding "community pickets" to support the dispute. 

At the Ritzy people have been holding nightly protests over the last week, with more planned every night in the coming week between 5.30pm and 7pm. 

Similar protests have happened at the Hackney and Crouch End sites.

The victimisations have spurred a fightback among workers. One rep told Socialist Worker that three people have joined the union at their site in the past week. 

Another strike is set to go ahead on Friday of next week, with a rally at the Crouch End site at 5pm. 

"We're planning to keep the pressure up," one rep told Socialist Worker. "The bosses are getting really dirty and it can go one of two ways. 

“Either we keep the pressure up or we can get our heads down - but that's never going to happen."


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