Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse in Brixton are set to take their first day of strike action on Saturday 24 September, as they embark on a new dispute with Picturehouse and the Cineworld empire of which the arthouse cinema chain is a part.
The Ritzy Picturehouse cinema and its BECTU branch last took on Picturehouse management in 2014, when they struck for the London living wage. 13 days of strike action forced Picturehouse bosses to concede a 26% pay increase, which fell just short of the London Living Wage. Now Picturehouse workers have reorganised and regrouped, and are pushing ahead with new demands – for the London Living Wage, sick pay, maternity, paternity and adoption pay and allowances for late night working.
Management have so far refused to negotiate these elementary demands with the workers’ union BECTU, preferring to harangue workers at “staff meetings” which they can control. Cineworld is hardly too poor to pay for very basic rights for its workers: in the six months ending in June 2016 it reported profits of over £30 million…
Ritzy staff will hold an all-day picket in Windrush Square from 12 noon on Saturday, with music, face-painting, theatre and balloons. Workers at the Ritzy are leading the way for the organisation of workers across the chain – workers at another Picturehouse cinema are shortly to ballot for union recognition, and join in the Ritzy workers’ dispute, demanding the same basic improvements in pay and conditions of work.
Socialists and trade unionists should do everything they can to spread the news of the strike, and the inspiration of Ritzy workers’ achievements.
First and foremost, the strike should set an example for workers across the Cineworld empire, with its 2,000 screens across nine countries. But the story of a group of low-paid workers in a sector rife with zero-hours contracts, union-busting and bullying mounting a strike of this scale should be an inspiration to workers across the private sector and especially in cafés, bars and restaurants.
That’s why a group of workers from the Ritzy Picturehouse will be travelling to Liverpool next week for the Labour Party Conference, where they will speak at the World Transformed festival. Also speaking at the World Transformed will be activists involved with the Deliveroo dispute, where spuriously “self-employed” couriers struck against bosses who used the atomisation of their workforce to gouge profits.
These two groups of workers, each of whom is making waves in an under-organised, hyper-exploited, sector, will bring an important message of hope to the political wing of the Labour movement when they speak in Liverpool. If the Labour movement is to renew itself, many more workers will need to follow the example of the Ritzy strikers, and organise the un-organised.
How you can support the Ritzy strikers
When workers at the Ritzy struck two years ago and won a 26% pay increase, they took many strike days to achieve this. Despite the pay increase Ritzy workers still do not earn the London Living Wage, and striking can be a financial hardship. Please support the Ritzy workers both financially and politically by doing one or all of the following:
• Get your union, Labour and/or Momentum branch to pass a motion of support and make a donation
• If you are in London visit the picket line in Brixton and bring along other activists
• Donate to the strike fund personally or do a collection in your workplace or at a meeting
• Organise a solidarity protest at a Picturehouse or Cineworld cinema near you, leaflet staff about the union and ask customers to hand in letters of protest.
• Follow them on Facebook and on Twitter: @RitzyLivingWage
Donations to the strike fund can be made by bank transfer to: Unity Trust Bank, Account No: 37000099, sort code: 60 – 83 – 01, account name: BECTU. Write RITZY STRIKE FUND as a reference.