Socialist Worker

Picturehouse workers strike for 50th time in pay fight

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2562

Workers on the picket line on Friday

Workers on the picket line on Friday (Pic: Socialist Wroker)


Workers at five Picturehouse cinemas across London walked out yesterday, Friday, in the fiftieth strike of their long-running dispute.

They are fighting for the Living Wage of £9.75 in London and £8.45 outside London. Other demands include sick pay as well as maternity and paternity pay.

Strikers travelled to the Crouch End site in north London to mount a picket. The tactic is designed to give confidence to workers by having larger pickets at one site rather than at each individual site.

The other reason is that the workers' union, the Bectu sector of the Prospect union, has argued they don't have enough full timers to act as picket supervisors at each site.

But union full timers don’t need to act as picket supervisors at each site. And holding pickets at each site could increase the turnout of workers on strike days.

The union fears falling foul of the Tories’ Trade Union Act.

It is wrongly treating the recommendation of six pickets on a picket line as a legal requirement.

However, it would be an epic fail to snipe from the sidelines and not show solidarity with strikers.

Local activists are organising solidarity protests at each of the sites.

One rep from Crouch End spoke to Socialist Worker on yesterday's picket line about how they built the union.

“Most people joined in January,” they said. “Seeing how workers at the Ritzy and Hackney cinemas were being treated inspired us to get involved.

“Most people here supported the dispute, it was just a question of getting people to make that step.”

As of yesterday four reps at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton had been sacked.

One rep described it as “an attack on the trade union movement and our union organisation”.

General secretary of Bectu Gerry Morrisey addressed the picket line yesterday. “The only crime these people committed was fighting for the Living Wage, fighting for their members and fighting for their trade union,” he said.

“As long as it takes, the Bectu sector of Prospect will continue to support our members.”

Picturehouse and its parent company Cineworld are under increasing pressure.

Earlier this week MP for East Dulwich Helen Hayes raised the strike at prime minister's questions in parliament. And shadow chancellor John McDonnell spoke on the picket line last Saturday.

Pressure needs to pile onto Picturehouse from below too. And workers need a strategy to win.

Workers are set to take more action in the near future.

Management promised to negotiate with workers earlier this year. But recent one-day strikes have been met with silence.

Holding longer strikes can increase the pressure.

The Trade Union Act means workers have to give two weeks’ notice for strikes. That allows management to change shifts round and put workers on probation, who can’t join the union, down to work on strike days. Striking for more than one day consecutively can undermine the bosses’ tactics.

Workers have shown how to build the union. The militancy of the dispute and the rapid expansion - four sites have joined the Ritzy in striking in the space of ten months - has provided a counterweight to bosses’ intimidatory tactics.

“Having other sites out with us helped in terms of support around the sackings,” one Ritzy rep told Socialist Worker. “Our focus has been to push outwards. Forging those relationships is so important in building and maintaining the campaign.”




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