Victory in battle over Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema pay but union rep ‘disappointed’ workers still won’t get London Living Wage

Striking staff at Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema have accepted a revised pay offer from owners Picturehouse Cinemas to end a long-running wage dispute.

The Ritzy workers’ trade union, Bectu, have announced that 35 union members balloted voted in favour of the offer with four voting against.

The accepted offer ensured an initial pay rise from £7.35 to £8.20 per hour, followed by a further increase to £8.40 in January next year, with a final rise to the current London Living Wage of £8.80 in September 2015.

The Ritzy staff, who campaigned to be paid the London Living Wage, took strike action on 13 occasions from April onwards this year, supported by their community and a high-profile media campaign.

Speaking to SW Londoner, Bectu supervisory official Willy Donaghy said: “Although the offer does not immediately reach the London Living Wage, I believe the members have been an inspiration to the whole of the trade union membership and beyond.”

The London Living Wage, endorsed by Mayor Boris Johnson, is determined annually by the Greater London Authority (GLA). The most recent figure was set at £8.80 an hour in November 2013.

The GLA define it as ‘a wage rate needed to give a worker in London enough to provide their family with the essentials of life’.

Speaking to SW Londoner, Rob Lugg, a union representative at the Ritzy said: “In terms of the dispute we feel a bit disappointed that it’s not the Living Wage.

“But at the same time we feel that we’ve achieved a lot more than we would have done if we hadn’t done it.

“If we haven’t achieved the Living Wage then obviously our campaign isn’t over, it’s just that the dispute is over.

“Actually we very much feel that it’s grown beyond us now; that it’s a much wider struggle for the Living Wage and for unionisation and so in the weeks and months ahead we intend to carry on the campaign and grow it beyond the Ritzy.”

The series of strikes has attracted support from Ken Loach and Eric Cantona – who joined with strikers in a picket line outside Hackney Picturehouse in June.

Speaking to the Evening Standard, film director Loach said of the dispute: “Everyone has a right to a living wage. It is sad and shocking that the Ritzy Cinema, which has an image of being radical and progressive, should fail to do this.”

Mr Lugg, 33, believes the backing of such high profile figures has helped the striking staff’s cause.

“It certainly paid a key role, as did the extensive media coverage it got,” he said,

“I think the most important thing for us throughout the campaign has been the day-by-day practical and moral support we’ve got from local people and customers and from other trade unions.

“Our campaign undoubtedly happened at a very opportune moment. Zero-hour contracts, wage stagnation and falling living standards are very much at the top of the agenda. The reality of most people’s lives is all of those things.”

Following the vote to accept the wage increase, striking Ritzy staff have ended their call for customers to boycott Picturehouse.

Mr Lugg believes the boycott was effective. “It made a huge difference,” he said. “It was about showing solidarity with us.”

As the Ritzy is the only Picturehouse cinema which recognises Bectu for collective bargaining, the pay rise will not be extended to other Picturehouse staff.

Mr Lugg believes the success of the Ritzy campaign has sparked renewed interest in trade union activity.

“My understanding is that there are a number of other places that are unionising at least partly inspired by our struggle,” he said.

Although the dispute is now over, Mr. Lugg suggested their campaign for better wages will continue.

He said: “We’ve achieved partial success, but on our own we can’t win this battle against poverty pay and injustice and actually it’s got to become much bigger than us and we are determined that that happens.

“It’s going to get bigger from here and there’s a lot more to come so watch this space.”

Picture courtesy of placards-mr, with thanks

Related Articles