Workers at four Picturehouse cinemas in London struck on International Women′s Day, Thursday 8 March.
Workers and supporters picketed Picturehouse Central in Soho, and the picket line was addressed by TUC General Secretary Frances O′Grady. The picket line was later joined by about 500 people from the Women′s March event, which for a period of time created such an effective picket line that no customers were able to get through the crowd to go into the cinema.
Writing for The Clarion magazine in advance of the strike, sacked Ritzy Cinema rep Kelly Rogers said:
″In the context of the abusive histories of Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Gary Oldman and others, the world is – rightly – talking about the problems of powerful, entitled men, sexism and sexual abuse that are rampant in the film industry. But it doesn’t end at the big names. Thousands of women workers at the lower-paid end of the industry, cinema workers included, not only experience widespread harassment from customers and managers, but also an economic exploitation that is very much gendered. Low pay, precarious contracts and poor conditions are all things predominantly experienced by women workers, especially migrant women.
″The feminist aspects of the Picturehouse strike go beyond just the demand for maternity pay. Jobs seen as ‘women’s work’, such as cleaning, nursing and caring, the service industry, secretarial work, have historically been underpaid as well as precarious, for both women and men n them. Supposedly ‘flexible’ zero-hours contract jobs are more likely to be occupied by women working around caring and other responsibilities.
″The service industry has a problem with sexual harassment.
“In Unite’s ‘Not on the Menu’ survey of hospitality workers, 89% of respondents said they had experienced one or more incidents of sexual harassment in their working life. 56.3% said they had been targeted by a member of the public. 22.7% said they had been harassed by a manager.
″Strikes are about, but not just about, defending our rights at work in an immediate way. Workers withdrawing our labour is a political act, it is a rejection of the idea that our bosses should control our lives. We should be discussing the wider political issues too. Picturehouse’s parent company Cineworld made over £90 million in profit last year: why are they not taxed more? Why is the Minimum Wage so low? Why are companies not legally obliged to pay proper maternity and paternity pay?
“The labour movement has not always been good at organising and fighting for the rights of precarious workers, or women workers, and the feminist movement has often neglected working-class women′s struggles.″
As Solidarity went to press workers from the Ritzy cinema were striking to coincide with the employment tribunal for three of their union reps who were sacked.
Workers are now discussing the next steps in the campaign, including how to get more cinemas involved.
• Read the full article by Kelly Rogers here.