Dame Tessa Jowell urges Picturehouse to halt ‘regretful’ Brixton Ritzy Cinema redundancies

Dame Tessa Jowell MP is urging Picturehouse Cinemas to rethink their ‘regretful’ decision to lay off staff at the Brixton Ritzy Cinema.

The Dulwich and West Norwood MP’s intervention follows last week’s announcement by Picturehouse that more than twenty Ritzy staff are to be made redundant from November.

The Labour MP is the latest high-profile figure to support the picturehouse workers with author and journalist Will Self boycotting his ‘favourite local’ cinema until the dispute is over.

Ms Jowell told South West Londoner: “It is with great regret that I learned that staff have been informed of potential redundancies being made on the grounds of, among others, improving consistency of customer service.

“The irony of course is that implementation of these plans is likely to do great damage to customer loyalty in Brixton towards the Ritzy,” she said.

“Entirely understandably, staff feel such a proposal is not in keeping with the spirit of the settlement reached earlier in the year.

“I urge Picturehouse to reconsider these plans to implement redundancies if the progress that has been achieved is to be maintained and the good will referred to in the ACAS Agreement is to be restored,” she added.

Bectu, the Ritzy staff’s trade union, announced that its members are to be balloted for industrial action following a meeting with Picturehouse officials yesterday morning.

This follows a series of strikes by Ritzy staff campaigning to earn the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour which ended in September when an ACAS-brokered agreement was accepted by union members.

The members agreed to a pay rise to £8.20 followed by another to £8.40 in January 2015 and another to £8.80 in September 2015.

In a statement released last week, Picturehouse Cinemas said: “During the negotiation process it was discussed that the amount of income available to distribute to staff would not be increasing, and that the consequence of such levels of increase to pay rates would be fewer people with more highly paid jobs. “

But speaking to South West Londoner, Bectu supervisory official Willy Donaghy rejected this claim.

“I have consulted with everybody from Bectu who was at that meeting and everybody refutes that,” he said.

“Looking at what the agreement states the thing that springs out is, ‘Working patterns for existing staff will be maintained’. That contradicts the line they are peddling at the moment.”

The redundancy notification from Picturehouse posted on the Living Wage for Ritzy Staff’s Facebook page stated that more than 20 of the Ritzy’s 93 staff would lose their jobs, although Mr Donaghy revealed that figures shown to him by Picturehouse at Tuesday’s meeting state that 34 positions are at risk.

“As far as I’m concerned they’ve [Picturehouse] behaved – dishonourably is too polite a word to use.

“They’ve done this without any regard to the staff that has made the Ritzy the most profitable cinema in their chain,” he said.

“It just shows them for the hypocrites that they are.”

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