Picturehouse cinema staff strike in campaign for London living wage

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Picturehouse cinema staff based at London venues the Ritzy in Brixton and the Hackney Picturehouse will begin strike action today (Thursday 17 November 2016) in a campaign to receive the independent London living wage.

Employees, who are members of the Bectu trade union, are campaigning for their base pay to be increased to the London living wage of £9.75 an hour. The living wage is an independently set pay rate calculated to cover the basic costs of living. This differs from the government’s national living wage, which is currently set at £7.20 an hour for staff aged over 25.

The industrial action is due to run from today until Monday 21 November 2016 in order to coincide with the release of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a film from the Harry Potter franchise, on 18 November 2016.

As well as campaigning for the London living wage, employees are also seeking improvements in sick pay for all staff, higher rates of maternity, paternity and adoption pay, pay rises for supervisors, duty managers, chefs and technical staff, and recognition of Bectu as employees’ chosen trade union.

Bectu members at the Ritzy cinema initially campaigned to receive the London living wage in 2014. After 13 incidents of strike action, employees were awarded a 26% pay increase to bring wages nearer to the London living wage.

A Bectu spokesperson said: “The living wage is now a vital baseline for decent minimum pay. More and more employers are adopting it and our members at the Ritzy and the Hackney Picturehouse are determined to see their employer, which is profitable and claims to be ethical, join the ranks of employers who recognise that adopting the living wage is the right position for their business.

“Picturehouse is a much loved, successful brand; it’s high time that management recognised that it’s their staff who deliver this reputation, who make a trip to a Picturehouse venue enjoyable. Our members have made the case for the living wage and management now need to engage with the arguments to avoid further alienating their customers and staff. Strikes are a last resort; we want management to start talking to help to end the current stalemate.”

A Picturehouse Group spokesperson said: “A three-year agreement with BECTU signed in July 2014 set staff pay rates at the Ritzy, not including benefits, at £9.10 from 2 September 2016 after three phased increases.

“Staff at the Hackney Picturehouse are represented by the Forum, a recognised union, and we negotiate pay rates each year. Negotiations for 2017 have not yet started. We are therefore disappointed by the decision of a minority of staff, 26 out of 82, who voted for strike action.

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“Our staff are hugely important to us, we pay fair wages and have a wide range of benefits within a good working environment. Pay for front-of-house people in Picturehouse Cinemas has been substantially more than the minimum wage for over 12 years.”

Kiv Legate, front of house at the Ritzy, said: “This year’s strike has now been going on for over six weeks with five strike days to date. We welcome a meaningful return to the negotiation table by Cineworld [chief executive officer] Mooky Greidinger, and urge the [organisation] to accept Acas’ invite to settle the dispute once and for all.”