Cinema workers at five London branches of the Picturehouse chain struck again on Friday 7 July, as their battle for living wages, union recognition, and other benefits continues. Picturehouse bosses have raised the stakes of the dispute by sacking four Bectu union reps from the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, the site where the dispute began. Three of those reps have had their appeals rejected, with a fourth waiting on an appeal outcome. All intend to pursue their cases at Employment Tribunal.
One of the sacked reps told Solidarity, “this act of blatant union busting tells you a lot about Picturehouse as an employer. They present an ethical, independent image, but they’re motivated by the same greed for profit as their parent company Cineworld.
“The substance of the sackings is outrageous: we’ve been sacked because an email, sent from a union address to members’ personal accounts, mentioned an activity that community supporters of our campaign were planning to undertake. Picturehouse claim this makes us liable for the action itself, and that not reporting it to the company constitutes gross misconduct.
“It’s a quite chilling illustration of the degree of power employers feel licensed to exert over their workers in the low-wage economy.
“The sackings won’t deter us, however: the demand for our reinstatement will be incorporated into the wider campaign, and we have every intention of staying involved in the strikes as organisers and supporters”.
Daily “community pickets” have been taking place at the Ritzy every weeknight from 5pm, distributing leaflets about the strike and encouraging customers to take their business elsewhere. Community pickets were also mounted at the Hackney and East Dulwich Picturehouse on the 7 July strike day. Workers’ Liberty members and supporters working at Picturehouse and active in the strikes are pushing for the union to name more strike dates as soon as possible, and to escalate the action beyond one day. Meetings are also planned with workers at other Picturehouse sites across the country, with the aim of spreading the strike.