The situation with the Picturehouse cinemas and the workers campaign for a strike has escalated, as Cineworld has just sacked three trade union reps. In response the community, has started a picket of the Ritzy and has had one every evening for two weeks and will continue to do so. The community pickets will also spread to other cinemas. I've put the text of our leaflet below and also other information from MPs and councilors. I've also included a response to what Cineworld have said.
1) TEXT FROM LEAFLET
Who owns The Ritzy?
The Ritzy is part of the Picturehouse chain, which is in turn owned by Cineworld. Cineworld has 2,000 screens in nine countries.
What is the London Living Wage?
Currently it is set at £9.75ph (the national living wage is £8.45). It is independently calculated each year based on what employees and their families need to live. Check out the Living Wage Foundation at www.livingwage.org.uk
Can Cineworld afford to pay this?
Last year Cineworld made over £90m profit. Its CEO took home over £1.2m. The Ritzy is the most profitable of the Picturehouse cinemas but still they won’t pay their staff a living wage.
Who can I complain to?
Ritzy staff in Bectu say it’s time for a boycott! Please do not visit the Picturehouse cinema chain or buy food or drink from them until this dispute is resolved!
For several years staff at the Ritzy have been campaigning with their union, Bectu, for the London living wage – currently £9.75ph. The dispute has now spread to several other cinemas in the Picturehouse chain. In early June there was a new development: Picturehouse sacked three union reps at the Ritzy Cinema. A fourth is awaiting a disciplinary hearing. Between them these individuals have worked for Picturehouse for over 18 years. They have been unfairly sacked for legitimate trade union activity – for receiving an email from the union that was sent reporting topics discussed at a union meeting but not passing it on to management. Over fifty people received this email, yet Picturehouse has chosen to discipline and fire only the union reps.
This is blatant trade union victimisation and is clearly an aggressive attempt to intimidate the staff and break their resolve in the midst of growing strike action. All the affected employees are determined to challenge this through appeal and, if necessary, an employment tribunal. As members of the local community we need to show our solidarity with them and boycott the
Ritzy! We are local cinema-goers who are angered at the Ritzy’s attacks on their staff. Why not join us?
Boycott the Ritzy!
They sack trade unionists
They won’t pay a living wage
2) STATEMENT FROM MPs AND LAMBETH LABOUR COUNCILORS
The following letter has been sent to the management of Picturehouse cinemas in relation to the suspensions reported on in the Guardian last week (https://www.theguardian.com/business/2017/jun/02/picturehouse-cinema-staff-suspended-brixton-ritzy-hackney-picturehouse). The occasion for the sending of the letter was an appeal hearing for Picturehouse BECTU reps, held today, Tuesday 27 June.
We would like for the letter to be published in the Guardian.
“We the undersigned are writing to Picturehouse management to say that we are extremely concerned at recent allegations of victimisation of trade union reps within the company.
Members of BECTU have been engaged in a 10-month strike for basic workplace rights: the Living Wage, union recognition, full company sick pay and maternity/paternity pay.
It is up to a future employment tribunal to determine the facts of the case at hand. Any suspensions or sackings intended to intimidate trade union members would be a matter of deep concern for the whole labour movement. No trade unionist or Labour Party member can tolerate the deliberate intimidation of trade union activists for pursuing their legitimate business.
We urge Picturehouse to withdraw any sacking and suspension of trade union reps and negotiate with their staff.
- Marsha de Cordova MP,
- Emma Hardy MP,
- John McDonnell MP,
- Helen Hayes MP,
- David Drew MP,
- Catherine West MP,
- Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP.”
“Lambeth Labour councillors are proud to stand with Ritzy workers in their campaign for the Living Wage. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. Rents are high and food, fuel and transport costs are going up. Employees deserve a decent wage so they can afford to live in our city and don’t have to struggle to make ends meet.
“We’re proud that Lambeth was one of the first councils to pay the London Living wage. We urge Picturehouse to do the same.” - Lambeth Labour Councillors
3) Q&A on Picturehouse statement
"Our pay rates are amongst the highest in the industry"
This is a. untrue, there are a whole host of Living Wage employers in the industry and b. to the extent it is true, it's the consequence of strike action in previous years. They haven't raised pay willingly, and in the process attempted to make striking workers redundant!
"Pay rates and benefits are negotiated by the Forum, a recognised union"
The staff forum is the sham company-run union which was established after the Ritzy first unionised. It was established to exploit the fact that if a union is recognised by an employer then another union can't make a statutory recognition claim until said union is de-recognised. It was only established to edge out BECTU. And while it is technically a union, it's not got independent status.
"In our cinemas outside London our work time pay rate starts at £8.72 per hour, and in London it is £9.65 per hour based on 7.5 hours worked in an 8 hour shift."
This is a spectacular manipulation of figures. Staff get paid £9.05 p/hr in London (£9.10 at the Ritzy). The figure they use here asks you to imagine that they don't get paid for breaks, which is ridiculous. It's like saying "imagine we only paid you for half of the hours you work, we pay you £18 an hour - aren't we great?!"
"These pay rates do not include our cinema-wide shared bonus scheme"
Staff want a guaranteed Living Wage, not bonuses.
"We also offer a number of other perks other perks, and of course provide sick pay and four weeks’ holiday a year"
For the first year of employment staff are only entitled to statutory sick pay, which is around £80 per week. After one year's employment staff get SSP for the first 8 days and then go to full company sick pay.
Staff are demanding that everyone gets full company sick pay from the first day of employment and the first day of sickness.
Staff don't get to choose when they're sick and if they get sick/injured in their first year of employment then that's it! - they can't pay your rent. And even after the first year of employment, missing a week's pay is the difference between making rent and bills or not when they're on poverty wages. Staff regularly have to go into work sick. Staff put our health and the health of our customers at risk because they have to go in order to get by. That's not right.
In terms of the other perks - it's cinema tickets, popcorn, tea and coffee while on shift. These enable staff to do their job better and cost the company practically nothing. It's good that staff get them, but they don't replace a decent wage.
"We have operated a policy of raising the pay rates of front of house cinema teams and cleaning staff at a different proportion to the rest of the company, in order to slim the differentials between the top and the bottom wages paid"
The pay rises that FOH and other low paid staff have seen resulted from the deal signed at the end of strikes in 2014. Subsequent pay rises brought staff at other sites up to the rate at the Ritzy (almost).
In 2015 Mooky, the Cineworld CEO, took home 1.2 million in pay and bonuses. In 2016, he took home 2.5 million in pay and bonuses. Now, you tell me whether we're seeing a slimming of differentials between the highest and lowest paid...
Cineworld's profits have sky-rocketed over the last few years. From around £31 million in 2013 to £93 million last year.