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Curzon Cinemas to recognise BECTU

A visit to the Curzon could soon mean a union-friendly night out at the pictures

16 November 2013

After months of campaigning members in Curzon have won the right to union representation.

Arthouse cinema chain Curzon has agreed "in principle" to recognise BECTU as its partner in collective bargaining for hundreds of staff, after a campaign which began this summer.

In a joint statement issued on November 15th, the two sides revealed that there were only a few "details to be ironed out" before formal recognition would be agreed for Curzon's cinema staff.

Willy Donaghy, BECTU National Official, said: "We are obviously very pleased at the progress of the campaign to date, and the company's agreement in principle is a great step forward. More work is needed on the detail, but we are confident that this can be settled quickly, and we'll soon be in productive talks with Curzon about staffing issues".  

BECTU now hopes that talks to finalise details of the recognition agreement will conclude in time for full negotiations on staff issues to begin within weeks. Two concerns likely to be high on the agenda will be zero-hour contracts, and the Living Wage.

These were the issues that catapaulted Curzon into the headlines earlier this year, when politicians began questioning the use of zero-hour contracts after press reports exposed how common these were among many employers, including Curzon which pays zero-hour staff just above the National Minimum Wage.

Staff in the Curzon chain began campaigning to build union membership in order to win better predictability of their working hours, and improvements in pay that might secure them the Living Wage, currently £2.49 above the minimum wage in London.

Household names from the film and entertainment world joined the campaign, including Mike Leigh, Ken Loach and Miriam Margolyes. Comedian Mark Thomas helped re-arrange the listing board at the front of Curzon Soho to read: "Give us fair pay", and producer Stanley Schtinter pulled a showing of "In a lonely place" at the same cinema in solidarity with the staff.

An online petition attracted more than 6,000 signatories, many of them leading figures in the industry, and Curzon customers expressed support at every screening.

BECTU's efforts to put a foot through the door of Curzon management looked promising when the union was able to announce in August that nearly three-quarters of staff had signed a petition calling for union recognition, but the company stood firm, arguing that its existing arrangements for consulting the workforce were adequate.

Only when BECTU sought recognition via a legal process overseen by the Central Arbitration Committee, which would have led to a binding ballot of all staff, did Curzon begin talking directly to the union about a voluntary agreement to allow full collective bargaining.

Staff campaigners and union officials have welcomed the breakthrough in discussions, and say that, in spite of heated moments on the road to recognition, they look forward to a constructive relationship which will not only bring security for the workforce, but benefits for Curzon and its customer base.

The joint BECTU/Curzon statement reads:

"Curzon Cinemas and BECTU have been engaged in productive discussions and have come to an agreement in principle on union recognition for staff working in cinemas. There are still some details to be ironed out but both sides agree that the union should be recognised to negotiate on a range of employee matters and that there is a shared vision for the future commercial success of the business.  We welcome this opportunity for our staff to gain representation for their views and we hope that, alongside our existing employee forum, this will enable them to work productively with us to help grow the business for the benefit of all parties."