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Monday 25th
posted by Morning Star in Britain

Ritzy living wage dispute enters 2nd year

by Felicity Collier

CINEMA workers in London and Brighton staged a 24-hour strike on Saturday, as a dispute over pay and conditions entered its second year.

Staff across five branches of Picturehouse are calling for the London living wage — currently calculated at £9.75 an hour — plus pay rises for senior staff, sick pay and parental leave.

The strike, backed by entertainment union Bectu, is also demanding the reinstatement of several union representatives who were sacked after industrial action this year.

Workers took to the streets in Brixton, south London, attracting dozens of supporters, and former cinema worker Marc Cowan drove a three-wheeler, dubbed the Precarious Workers’ Mobile.

He said: “A lot of creative people work at Ritzy and they supplement that to support their other creative work and if that’s not supportive in a way that they can sustain themselves, then that’s actually damaging the very nature of the business of the cinema.”

The campaign has support from director Ken Loach and 25 other actors and screenwriters who urge the public to boycott the chain and its parent company Cineworld.

In Britain, around 70 per cent of Cineworld’s front-of-house staff, including 700 at Picturehouse, are on zero-hours contracts without parental leave or sick pay.

Mr Loach, a Bectu member, said that the firm’s bosses “make fortunes. The idea that they pay starvation wages because they can get people who are desperate for work is absolutely shocking. Victory to the Picturehouse strikers, no doubt.”

Cineworld reported £98.2 million of pre-tax profit for 2016.

Bectu official Naomi Taylor said: “Cineworld’s chief executive earned £2.5m just last year. Picturehouse can afford to pay their staff a living wage — they just choose not to.”

Picturehouse bosses tried to justify their exploitative employment practices by claiming that they are one of the highest-paying employers in the cinema industry.

There will be nine strikes during the British Film Institute (BFI) London film festival.

Staff at the Hackney and Central cinemas will strike from 5pm on October 6 to 8, and from October 11 to 15.

The BFI said it supported the call for the London living wage, which it pays its own employees.