Ritzy Cinema workers strike for seventh time in dispute over London Living Wage

By Naomi Agius

Workers at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton went on strike on Saturday for the seventh time in a bid to secure the London Living Wage.

Staff have been in a dispute with cinema owners Picturehouse Cinemas, part of Cineworld, Europe’s largest cinema chain for months, over low pay.

Despite the chain’s £400million revenue, staff receive a starting wage of £7.53 an hour, significantly lower than the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour.

Rob Lugg, union representative of the cinema, from South Lambeth, has been working at the Ritzy since February 2013 and was at the forefront of Saturday’s strike, which the vast majority of staff attended.

He expressed his disappointment that Picturehouse executives had recently pulled out of negotiations but insisted workers will continue with industrial action until their pay is increased.

“Even though the company has pulled out of talks, we are balloting again and are expecting a massive yes for our members,” he said.

“Though we are fighting for the living wage for people at the Ritzy this is a much bigger problem. The Ritzy Cinema is the only unionised cinema in the country and we are pushing for all other cinemas to be recognised by a union and given a voice.”

He said as there is an escalating problem of low pay and zero hour contracts, he hoped that other low paid workers would take inspiration from the strike.

The campaign has gained backing from the Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union (BECTU), of which most staff are members, and Fiona Twycross, Labour London Assembly Member.

“The staff have got a really good cause and are doing a brilliant campaign which is not just for themselves,” said London Assembly Labour Group Economy spokesperson, Ms Twycross, who called for a statutory status of the Living Wage in November last year.

“They are fighting for other people who are repeatedly told by the mayor and their employers that this issue of pay will be resolved.

“We are making slow progress towards the living wage for all employees but at the current rate, it would take 425 years for all workers to receive a living wage in London.

“There is an assumption that the amount of workers being paid the Living Wage is on the increase but actually, in 2012, there was 600,000 Londoners paid below, which was up 180,000 since 2007.

“The impression being given by the Mayor and other politicians is not actually what is happening.”

She said that one of the biggest issues that Londoners face is that of inequality in terms of pay and there is a big gap between people being paid huge salaries and those struggling to make ends meet.

While Mayor of London Boris Johnson has pledged his support for the campaign, Ms Twycross said she hoped to see him make an increased effort as there is still a long way to go.

Photo courtesy of by diamond geezer, with thanks.
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