Socialist Worker

Picturehouse cinema strikers vow to continue fight as union calls fresh ballot

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2566

On strike for a Living Wage at Picturehouse Central

On strike for a Living Wage at Picturehouse Central (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers at five Picturehouse cinema sites in London walked out on Friday and Saturday as part of their long-running campaign. Their demands include the Living Wage of £9.75 an hour in London and £8.45 outside London.

Previously workers had been staging a single picket at one of the sites?in Crouch End, Brixton, Hackney, Central and East Dulwich?and travelling from the other sites to join it.

That meant that the total number picketing was lower than when they mounted pickets at each site involved in the dispute, which they returned to this weekend.

However, with a new ballot running from Wednesday of next week until 29 August, this weekend’s strikes are set to be the last of the summer.

Niall, a worker at the central London site, told Socialist Worker, “I think the ballot result will go fine. At our site I think we'll increase the amount of people involved, we've got people coming off probation who are keen to get involved.”

Niall described how management at the site are “showing their true colours. As soon as they have the chance to rip you off they'll do it.”

Management there overpaid workers for holiday hours they weren't entitled to, and are now trying to make them work for free to pay the money back.

“Management should be the ones paying for their mistake,” said Niall. “People are stressing because they don't know if they can make rent.”

The leadership of the Bectu arm of the Prospect union sees the strikes as one part of a wider campaign. That includes drumming up community support and raising the profile of the strike in the media to shame Picturehouse owners Cineworld into backing down.

At the Ritzy site union reps have been sacked but workers refuse to be intimidated

At the Ritzy site union reps have been sacked but workers refuse to be intimidated (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Focus

Those elements are important, but the main focus should be on the strikes and spreading them to other workplaces. There are 24 Picturehouse cinemas in Britain and 82 Cineworld cinemas.

About 70 percent of Cineworld’s front-of-house staff in Britain—3,750, including 700 at Picturehouse—are on zero hours contracts. If even a section of them joined the fight it would transform the campaign.

A serious recruitment campaign coupled with longer strikes could push the dispute forward.

“There needs to be a two-way dialogue between Picturehouse and Cineworld workers,” one striker at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton told Socialist Worker. “They need to get involved in the campaign to increase living standards as well.”

On 10 August three of the four people sacked by Picturehouse are set to have an employment tribunal hearing appealing the decision. 

The sackings, by the union’s own admission, “amount to victimisation for trade union activities”.

In a further kick in the teeth for workers, the legal firm Picturehouse is using pays its staff the Living Wage.

A statement by Picturehouse management said, “Staff have a recognised union called the Forum which gives them collective bargaining rights on pay and benefits and the last pay rate was agreed by a 72% majority.”

But the Forum is headed up by management.

“We want recognition of Bectu and derecognition of the Forum shambles,” Andrea, a rep at Picturehouse central, told Socialist Worker.


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