Workers at the Rio cinema in Dalston are having their first day of strike action on Wednesday 25th May. They are campaigning to against proposals of forced redundancies, for a living wage, and for a commitment from management that they will continue and extend the progressive, community-focused programmes put on at the Rio.
The Rio is one of the increasingly few independent cinemas left. For much of the 107 years since its opening, in 1909, the Rio has catered to its local community, and been a forerunner in showing progressive films. From its inception, it has been a key venue for the East London working class, who have been priced out of expensive West End theatres. In the '50s and '60s it was well-known for putting on programmes designed for the local black and Jewish communities. In the '70s it started showing soft-porn “blue movies”, and since then has filled its programme with feminist, queer and international films. The staff at the Rio are committed to “saving the soul” of their beloved cinema, and so have launched their campaign SOS RIO, through their trade union BECTU.
The dispute has been long. In 2013 the Rio staff made an exceptional sacrifice and took a 10% pay cut, for a period of seven months, in a deal to save the cinema from closure. Since then, staff have been demanding a pay rise and for the money they sacrificed to be paid back now that the Rio has secured a more stable financial future. Management have now shut down negotiations, and have plans to “re-structure”, which will see a significant number of forced redundancies.
With a 93% vote in favour of strike action, workers will be on the picket line on Wednesday 25th demanding:
- The immediate withdrawal of the threat of compulsory redundancies due to take effect on 1 June.
- The immediate withdrawal of the current restructure.
- A commitment to try to find a solution that retains the staff and the high technical and customer service standards for which The Rio is renowned.
- A detailed five year plan from the Board on how they intend to grow the cinema as a community resource for low income families.
- A demonstrable commitment to a style of management that maximises openness, transparency and respect.
- A pay rise for all, with the lowest paid being paid at least the London Living Wage.
Support the campaign of the Rio staff!