On 20 July workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton were on strike again as part of their Living Wage campaign. The strike had been timed to disrupt a live screening of the new Monty Python musical, the kind of screening that normally draws packed audiences and big profits.
For the first time in the dispute, the bosses decided to try and keep the cinema running during industrial action, drafting in managers from elsewhere to fill in for strikers. A large, noisy crowd - perhaps fifty strikers and well over a hundred supporters - gathered at the entrances to cinema, waving flags, dancing to music and holding an enormous banner calling for a boycott of the cinema. Workers' Liberty members and other lefties, particularly RS21, helped out with picketing and leafleting.
In support of the workers, some customers refused to go in to the screening rooms and demanded a refund from management instead. However, screenings went ahead and so some protesters decided to sneak in and disrupt them. Around ten people managed to sneak past the scab ushers and into the Monty Python screening, climbing on to the stage and chanting slogans for fair pay and a Living Wage. Security and police eventually succeeded in bundling everyone out, but it was an embarrassing spectacle for the bosses.
The Ritzy cultivates a reputation as a trendy, avant-garde cinema catering to a forward-thinking clientèle. This reputation has been damaged by the strike. In the press and on social media, Monty Python member Terry Jones criticised the cinema for its refusal to pay a Living Wage, and urged fans to demand a refund. On the Sunday, potential customers would have seen the cinema surrounded by a dozen police officers, with large metal barriers erected outside to block out the view of picketing workers.
Earlier in the week, cinema workers from across London and beyond marched from the British Film Institute on the South Bank to City Hall, where they were addressed by film director Ken Loach, BECTU trade unionists and Labour assembly members. Solidarity messages were also sent from other labour movement bodies, including the bakers' union.
As the campaign hots up, building solidarity for this crucially important dispute is urgent.