Socialist Worker

Picturehouse strikes kick off in London to demand the Living Wage - and more

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2575

Picturehouse workers and supporters rallying in London to mark the start of a series of strikes

Picturehouse workers and supporters rallying in London to mark the start of a series of strikes (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Workers at five sites of the Picturehouse cinema chain walked out on Wednesday to begin their latest round of strikes. They protested outside the opening of the London Film Festival.

The Bectu union members struck despite bosses’ threats to sack them if they took part.

A letter from the firm’s lawyers to Bectu said, “Our client is minded to dismiss any employee who takes part in the strikes by reason of having taken part in unofficial industrial action.”

The news comes after Picturehouse sacked four workers for trade union activities earlier in the year. The firm has shown how low it will stoop to win this fight.

Workers’ demands include the London Living Wage of £9.75 in London and £8.45 outside London. Other demands include maternity pay, paternity pay, decent sick pay and recognition for Bectu at all sites.

But bosses claim that a recent pay rise, negotiated through the company’s fake union The Forum, makes current strikes illegal. Pay has risen to £9.30 an hour. And the firm claims that this is “equivalent to £9.92 an hour as we’re one of the few cinema companies who pay for breaks”.

Striker Andrea Cencioni told Socialist Worker, “Even if they gave us the Living Wage we’d still be on strike. We have a lot more demands that they’re not acknowledging.”

A Picturehouse worker marching in London

A Picturehouse worker marching in London (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Freeze

The new pay rise came with a two-year pay freeze.

The Living Wage set to increase in November, when it is calculated annually. A cynic might think Picturehouse’s new pay deal is a way of keeping wages down in the medium term.

Agata, a rep from the Ritzy cinema in south London, told Socialist Worker, “The Living Wage is more secure because it’s going to go up each year. Picturehouse’s latest offer is a step forward, but it’s not enough.”

Workers are holding two-hour strikes over nine days – and this can cause a public relations disaster.

Actor Andy Serkiss came out in support of the strikers on Wednesday, for instance.

But the strikes need to be much more hard-hitting to have an impact on Picturehouse’s bottom line.

Workers have shown they can recruit people from other sites to the union.

That needs to be spread out further so when the next round of strikes come around, they can bring Picturehouse to its knees.

“We’re building membership at other sites,” said Agata. “It’s not the easiest thing, but we’re getting stronger and better.”

Strike timeline:

6-8 October

Strikes at Hackney Picturehouse and Picturehouse Central only from 5pm-7pm. 

11-14 October

As above, strikes at Hackney Picturehouse and Picturehouse Central only from 5pm-7pm. 

15 October -closing day of festival

All London sites on strike from 3.30pm. 

The renewed campaign to secure the Living Wage at Picturehouse is now in its second year. Find our more about the campaign and show your support here


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