The largest cinema workers’ strike in British history happened on Saturday 11 February. Workers at four Picturehouse sites in London struck, including Picturehouse′s flagship cinema near Piccadilly Circus. Workers at the Ritzy in Brixton, Picturehouse Central, Hackney and Crouch End walked out at 2 p.m.
Workers at all four sites were greeted when they walked out by supporters and staff who had not been working in the morning. This was the first strike for workers at Crouch End and Picturehouse Central, who joined those at the Ritzy and Hackney when workers were re-balloted earlier this month. Workers are on strike for the London Living Wage, sick pay, maternity/paternity pay and union recognition.
Wages vary across the Picturehouse chain but none currently pays the Living Wage Foundation rate (£9.75 an hour). Picturehouse continues to refuse to negotiate with the workers′ union, the Bectu section of Prospect. It is clear Picturehouse wants to stand firm on not recognising a union. They fear their workers′ continuing ability to collectively organise. During the strike the Ritzy cinema was completely closed, while a combination of head office management, workers on their probationary period and workers shipped in from Cineworld cinemas were used to keep the other three sites open. However confident picketing by workers resulted in many potential customers being turned away, and many who had already bought tickets online demanding a refund from the cinema.
Bosses were clearly annoyed by this and attempted to intimidate workers who were picketing — bosses even called the police to keep an eye on the picket at Crouch End. Disappointingly some union staff were also giving pickets incorrect advice about picketing laws, and tried to discourage pickets from turning customers away at the doors. Labour′s London Mayor Sadiq Khan has written to Moshe Greidinger, the chief executive of Cineworld (the owner of Picturehouse) calling for Picturehouse to pay its staff the London Living Wage.
In his letter Khan said: “I am concerned therefore to read reports of an ongoing dispute relating to the Living Wage in your Picturehouse subsidiary ... The London Living Wage (LLW) is a voluntary floor to earnings which has my full support. As Mayor of London, I strongly support the LLW campaign.″
At the Bafta awards ceremony on Sunday 12 February ′I, Daniel Blake′ director Ken Loach stopped on the red carpet to talk to and take photos with Picturehouse strikers, and wore a ″living staff, living wage″ badge whilst receiving his award. Picturehouse workers and their supporters will be holding a demonstration on 25 February in central London. They will start at the Empire cinema, Leicester Square, which Picturehouse has recently bought, before going on a tour of central London cinemas.