Bosses recruit unwitting new staff to break living wage strike
PICTUREHOUSE cinema bosses plan to draft in scabs today in a desperate bid to break their staff’s fight for a living wage.
The workers at five London cinemas — Hackney, Crouch End, East Dulwich, Central and the Ritzy in Brixton — are fighting to be paid the £9.75 London living wage.
Currently staff earn between £9.05 and £9.10 an hour — less than the price of a ticket at a Picturehouse cinema.
Picturehouse owner Cineworld is continuing to refuse to negotiate despite raking in £93.8 million in profits last year, according to staff who are members of the Bectu section of Prospect union.
The staff are also fighting for sick pay, maternity and paternity pay and a rise for supervisors, managers, chefs, projectionists and sound technicians at the cinema chain.
Today’s strike, from 1pm until 5am on Easter Sunday, will bring the total number of walkouts by Picturehouse cinema workers in the last seven months to over 40.
Ritzy staff have been striking for a living wage since summer 2014 but it will be the first strike at East Dulwich Picturehouse.
Cinema worker Ben Lennon said: “We at East Dulwich have seen the campaign growing and it’s become clear that we need to be a part of it.
“It isn’t just about Picturehouse. It’s about all workers, especially those on below the national average pay.
“People should not be forced into work ill or face being unable to pay their rent.
“We should not live in fear of having our hours drastically reduced in quieter months. It’s about justice, a more equal distribution of income, and taking a significant step towards a fairer society.”
Picturehouse has opted to keep cinemas open during strikes by drafting in workers, including managerial staff, from other cinemas.
In advance of the most recent strikes, the company launched a nationwide advertising campaign to hire new staff.
Once hired, they were told their first shift would be today — to scab on their new colleagues.
The new staff were told they would not be working at any one specific cinema, unlike most Picturehouse staff, and that they needed to be available for work at short notice.
Hackney Picturehouse’s Alisdair Cairns said: “It felt pretty vindictive of Picturehouse to plaster a giant job advertisement all over our front doors when we had been told by managers that we weren’t hiring.
“As it turns out they were recruiting strike-breakers. We feel really bad for the new staff, who hadn’t even been told there would be a strike on that day.
“What an awful position to be put in without proper warning. It’s so not an acceptable way for Picturehouse to introduce new staff to the company.”
The strikers have called for a public boycott of Picturehouse and their campaign has been backed by high-profile actors and film directors including Sir Patrick Stewart and Ken Loach.
Picturehouse has threatened workers and their union with legal action on unfounded claims of “unlawful picketing,” “intimidating behaviour” and playing “racial” music on picket lines.
Picturehouse was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press.