Build solidarity with the Picturehouse strike

Submitted by Matthew on 14 June, 2017 - 1:16 Author: Joe Booth

Joe Booth, a young socialist, writes his thoughts about the importance of linking the Picturehouse workers’ struggle to the struggle in the Labour Party.

Since October 2016 Workers′ Liberty has been helping the dispute of Picturehouse workers for the Living Wage, sick pay, and maternity/paternity pay. People should support the Picturehouse workers in their fight for a Living Wage and use the momentum of the Labour election gains to build solidarity.

If Labour had won the general election the minimum wage would have increased to £10 per hour. But we still want to push the social democracy under Jeremy Corbyn’s leftism forward. A Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn will not mean the end of capitalism, but it would change the balance of forces between the ruling class drive to increase austerity, inequality and poverty, and our drive to resist and push the other way. The huge shift to Labour over the course of the election was a reflection of class struggle in Britain.

Solidarity means that as revolutionary and radical far-left socialists you address everyone on your side’s issues, you fight the same oppression that they’re fighting. One solidarity action that we want to achieve is the transformation of the entire labour movement, unity against all forms of oppression and, most importantly a workers’ government.

There are other workers who reject politics and only participate in these activities when it comes to their attention. As revolutionary socialists, we need to show some sympathy to those workers who are separate from politics and nihilistically turn to hatred. It is no coincidence that capitalism makes desperate people believe anything.

The Picturehouse workers need success, our solidarity will be important in building that. A mass movement is a tactic, but also a radical form of democracy, because the people are being led to power and the workers have the capacity to own the means of production. We should bypass the trade union bureaucracy, to take advantage of all forms of rebellion in society and use this politics to help convince the working class.

Picturehouse victimises trade union reps

Picturehouse cinemas have suspended seven Bectu trade union reps, in the midst of ongoing strike action.The dispute for a Living Wage, decent sick pay, maternity/paternity pay, and union recognition has run for over 10 months so far.

Over forty strike days have been held across six Picturehouse cinemas. Most recently workers at five of the cinemas struck on 3-4 June, disrupting the Sundance film festival which Picturehouse was hosting.Picturehouse, and its parent company Cineworld, have adopted an aggressive strategy of intimidation in response to the strikes. Since the beginning of the dispute they have been threatening both workers and their union Bectu with legal action, over a number of spurious allegations, such as playing “racial music” on the picket line.

The suspension of all six trade union reps from the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, and one rep from Hackney Picturehouse, marks an attempt to behead the dispute by removing some of its key organisers. The Ritzy is where the strikes originated.The allegations being levelled against the reps refer to protest activity undertaken by supporters of the campaign on strike days, not the workers themselves. These protests were discussed in a cross-site union meeting and over e-mail, which was then leaked to management.Infamously unscrupulous, Picturehouse may have made a calculation that they would rather risk paying out large sums in compensation following tribunals, in order to undermine the strike now.

Already news of the suspensions has been met with considerable criticism. The shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, weighed in on the subject,“The whole labour movement will stand shoulder to shoulder with victimised workers at the Ritzy cinema and across the Picturehouse chain.

“Actions such as these from Picturehouse management are an attack on all of us and they reflect an economy in which it has become normal for workers to be precarious, underpaid and exploited.

“We will outlaw zero hours contracts and make sure that everyone is paid a real living wage, and we will ensure that workers have access to justice and that big corporations cannot act with impunity.”

In the event of dismissals then it is important that McDonnell’s words are made true.The Picturehouse dispute isn’t just important because the workers need a pay rise. Workers have organised in a sector that is typically seen as impossible to organise, and they’ve grown their dispute from one to six cinemas, with more expected to follow in the coming weeks. Up against a multinational Goliath, they’ve come under a lot of pressure but have stood fast. The whole labour movement needs to mobilise to support us.

The suspensions represent the greatest attack by the company on the campaign to date, but also an opportunity. After bosses were forced into saying they would meet the union after being confronted by workers at Cineworld′s AGM, a negotiation meeting is set for the end of the month. A strong response to these victimisations could mark a decisive turn in the campaign.Support the victimised reps:

• Send messages of protest to Cineworld

• Send messages of support to Ritzy Living Wage, twitter: @RitzyLivingWage and @HPHLivingWage

• Donate to the strike fund

• Sign the petition

• Find out more about the dispute

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