Ritzy staff call for union reps to be reinstated at Brixton protest

Ritzy staff and trade unionists demonstrated outside Brixton’s Ritzy cinema on Saturday to reinstate their four recently sacked union representatives.

The ‘Picturehouse 4’ protest ran alongside their ongoing battle for a London Living Wage, better sick pay, maternity/paternity pay and union recognition.

Journalist Owen Jones, who came to stand in solidarity with the workers, called the recent sackings ‘disgraceful’ and said Picturehouse needed to immediately reinstate the workers with a full apology.

He said: “This is a cinema that tries to aim for a lefty progressive young audience and I don’t think, if people knew the full extent of what is going on, they would still be attending.

“Clearly at the moment there is a push back by management, but management are going to lose and they need to know that.

“They need to stop humiliating themselves and the cinema and just accept the inevitable.”

As hundreds gathered outside the cinema in a show of unity, Mr Jones said the union representatives and workers should not be persecuted for organising and having a basic democratic right.

He said: “All workers should have a wage upon which they can live.

“I think they are an example to others that you shouldn’t accept your conditions, you shouldn’t accept your wages, you should stand up for yourself and you need to show unity.

“It shouldn’t just be the workers themselves but the community behind them showing that they are not alone, an injury to one is an injury to us all.”

Union representatives of The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Communications and Theatre Union (BECTU)had a private meeting with management from Cineworld, the company that owns Picturehouse, last week to negotiate pay.

A BECTU spokesperson said: “When we arrived they had not even read our pay claims so that shows you the kind of level they are working on.

“They essentially said they were not willing to engage in any kind of negotiation or enter any kind of discussion about improved pay conditions.

“There are a lot of writers, actors, musicians, all kinds of different talents here so it’s incredibly important for the people to be able to look after themselves, pay their rent and feed themselves.

Labour MP for Dulwich and West Norwood Helen Hayes, who earlier this year initiated an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons about Picturehouse and Cineworld’s failure to pay the Living Wage, said the basis of the campaign was undeniable.

She said: “They are trading off the local independent reputation, a set of values and an ethos that they did not own to begin with and they are exploiting that for their own gains.

“It is absolutely wrong not to pay your workers the London Living Wage and to be sacking trade union reps who are standing up for their colleague and it is not only wrong it is illegal.

Also at the demonstration, shadow chancellor John McDonnell pledged the Labour Party’s support and said: “We will not tolerate any company that victimises trade unionists.

“In the last two centuries, what has happened here at Picturehouse has been the traditional practice of grotesque employers.

“Over two centuries now since we founded trade unions the tactic has been to try and sack the leaders and organisers.

“When employers do that it makes us more determined not less.”

As Ritzy staff continue to negotiate with management over pay, its resonance across the country has also brought to the forefront the rights of other employees fighting for healthy work terms and conditions.

A Picturehouse spokesperson said: “Our pay rates are amongst the highest in the industry and we will continue to negotiate pay rates with The Forum at our cinemas excluding The Ritzy, where we negotiate with BECTU.

“Negotiations are underway currently with BECTU for pay rates at the Ritzy. We are therefore disappointed that a minority of staff have decided to take industrial action.”

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