6 November 2013
BECTU's campaign for recognition at Curzon cinemas continues to gather support. What follows is a press statement released today (6 November) confirming the decision of Stanley Schtinter, co-producer of the 70 x70 film season, to withdraw from screenings at the Curzon chain.
During Living Wage Week, STANLEY SCHTINTER pulls business from Curzon Cinemas in support of staff campaign for living wage and union recognition.
In a Lonely Place, part of 70x70 film season, was scheduled to screen at Curzon Soho on 11 December. In solidarity with the Curzon workers' campaign for a living wage, union recognition and concessionary rates for the public, film season co-producer Stanley Schtinter has chosen to boycott Curzon cinemas until the management at Curzon make a full and concerted effort to recognise the workers' campaign and BECTU, the media and entertainment union for cinema workers.
70x70 is an independent project meant as a gift from King Mob to Iain Sinclair: 70 films selected by him on the occasion of his 70th birthday.
As Schtinter argues:
“Like so many Curzon cinemas, Curzon Soho is a wonderful environment in which to watch films. But to proceed with this event would be to tacitly endorse the current policies of Curzon. This is not in keeping with the spirit of 70x70, and it would be an awful shame if we withheld a simple but important act of solidarity under the circumstances."
The announcement of the boycott happens to coincide with Living Wage Week:
The background to the announcement is that Curzon staff have been campaigning since the beginning of the year for a living wage, for the choice to be represented by a union and for a proper voice in the company. Ken Loach and Mike Leigh have offered support:
“It is a fundamental human right to be recognized by a trade union…. Filmmakers value cinemas like the Curzon. We all want to see it become more successful. But that success cannot be at the expense of those who work there.” Ken Loach
"I use and love Curzon cinemas. I am shocked to discover such an obscene difference between the exemplary way they treat their public and their cynical exploitation of their staff." Mike Leigh
Curzon staff have lived through years of broken promises, zero-hour contracts and low pay – a familiar tale for cinema workers across the UK - but they decided to do something about it with BECTU and:
- started an online petition that now has over 4,000 signatures from Curzon customers http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/curzon-cinemas-pay-workers-the-london-living-wage-and-recognise-their-union-membership
- attracted articles in The New Statesman, The Guardian and The Independent (links can be found below)
- gathered hundreds of Twitter followers https://twitter.com/CurzonWorkers
- have been joined by BECTU union members from Odeon, Cineworld, Everyman and BFI leafleting outside Curzon cinemas
- have had the support of comedian Mark Thomas in a number of day-glow protests in Curzon cinemas as well as becoming part of his current UK comedy tour http://indyrikki.wordpress.com/2013/10/30/mark-thomas-presents-worlds-first-in-cinema-day-glo-protest-in-support-of-curzon-workers/
When staff first asked to be represented by a union, Curzon made it very clear that they would not grant voluntarily recognition unless staff could demonstrate that 45% of them were already in membership. A figure plucked out of the air. And a difficult ask as Curzon wouldn't agree to respect confidentiality by going through an independent body such as ACAS to verify union membership and, just as importantly, to verify the total number of staff Curzon say are employed.
The Curzon staff proved instead that they had as much, and in fact more, than the law would require to recognize a union - over 10% of staff were already in membership (59 to date) and over 50% of staff were willing to sign a petition asking for the union to be recognized (108 to date). But Curzon still refused.
At the end of August, BECTU formally notified Curzon that they had given staff no choice but to lodge a claim with the Central Arbitration Committee (CAC) to force Curzon to recognize BECTU. Within a week, Curzon announced a pay rise to £7 per hour. The Living Wage now stands at £7.65 and the London Living Wage is £8.80. Staff decided to continue with the application even though the process is slow and expensive involving hearings, questionnaires, deliberations, verifications and a ballot months later that will no doubt return the same landslide vote of the original petition. The staff believe this is childish and shameful time-wasting on the part of Curzon.
Staff are disgusted that Curzon is now paying lawyers to nit-pick through the application rather than pay staff a living wage. Curzon accuses staff of wanting to impose a union but union members have made it clear “we are campaigning for the very basic right for each member of staff to make up their own mind and have the choice to join a union, not for it to be imposed. This is not radical - unions have been recognised since 1871. All that we are asking for is the right to union recognition, the full return of concession prices for customers, the dignity of a living wage and the chance for our voices to be heard.”
The withdrawal of business is a significant indication of the effect these staff protests are having on the Curzon brand.
NOTES FOR EDITORS – STANLEY SCHTINTER & IAIN SINCLAIR
• Stanley Schtinter is an independent programmer and liberated filmmaker
• Stanley Schtinter can be reached for further comment on firstname.lastname@example.org
• Official web link for 70x70: http://king-mob.net/ in association with purge:http://purge.xxx/
• The 70x70 film season was organized to "celebrate Iain Sinclair's 70th birthday, a season of 70 films that have appeared in his novels."
• Iain Sinclair's forthcoming book, American Smoke, is published this Thursday 7 November 2013 by Penguin http://www.iainsinclair.org.uk/ (launch on Thursday at Whitechapel Gallery screening Beat by Gary Walkow)
• For more Iain Sinclair celebrations, this Saturday and Sunday at ICA (9 and 10 November, and again on 16 and 17 November), an extremely rare opportunity to see the longest narrative film ever made, Rainer Werner Fassbinder's epic Berlin Alexanderplatz on 35mm. http://www.ica.org.uk/39089/Film/Berlin-Alexanderplatz.html. Start time on both days is 11am, end time is 8pm. Tickets have been reduced to make the screening accessible to all. Iain Sinclair on why this is such an important event: http://blog.ica.org.uk/iain-sinclair-berlin-alexanderplatz/
• From the 14 -17 November 2013 at F (110 Church St, Stoke Newington), Schtinter runs THE LIBERATED FILM STORE (joint curation with Thurston Moore & Eva Prinz's Ecstatic Peace Library): “Liberated as free from industry. Lost, forgotten. Made in impossible circumstances. Mutant. Banned. Too much. Temporary holding place for films you can’t guarantee. Available by donation. Sample projections extend the architecture of a Flawed space.”
NOTES FOR EDITORS – BECTU and CURZON WORKERS
• Sharon Elliott, BECTU Communications Officer can be reached for further comment on email@example.com
• BECTU coverage of the Curzon campaign http://www.bectu.org.uk/news/2029
• Formal request for voluntary recognition was made by BECTU on 23 August 2013
• Formal application to CAC made 10 October 2013
• BECTU is seeking to secure representation rights for the company's staff including those working at the Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho, Renoir Cinema, Curzon Chelsea, Curzon Richmond, HMV Curzon Wimbledon, Curzon Knutsford, Curzon Ripon, Curzon Stafford and Curzon Head Office.
• Curzon staff are very close to their customers and are campaigning just as passionately to restore concessionary ticket prices for the disabled, senior citizens, students and the unemployed.
• Curzon Workers on Twitter:
• Curzon Workers on Facebook:
MEDIA COVERAGE TO DATE
• Article by Rowenna Davis, New Statesman from 2 April 2013:
• Interview with a Curzon activist in the New Left Project from 3 April 2013:
• Blog from ex-Curzon employee, Tania El Khoury, from 7 April 2013:
• Article on zero-hours contracts at Curzon Cinemas, The Guardian from 9 August 2013:
• Article in Time Out London from 9 August 2013:
• Article in Movie Scope magazine from 10 August 2013:
• Update on the campaign from John Brissenden, New Left Project from 12 August 2013:
• Article in Solfed from 13 August 2013:
• Article in Workers' Liberty from 17 August 2013:
• Article by Rowenna Davis, New Statesman from 5 September 2013:
• Feature in Workers' Liberty from 22 October 2013:
• Article in The Independent from 24 October 2013:
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