Ritzy strikers boosted by shadow business secretary visit

Shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna, pictured with branch secretary Nia Hughes outside the Ritzy cinema.

19 April 2014

Workers on strike at the Ritzy cinema in South London got a boost today (19 April) with a visit from local MP and shadow business secretary, Chuka Umunna.

The shadow business secretary, a regular user of the venue, said that where businesses could afford to pay the London Living Wage that they should and that the Labour Party is committed to incentivising employers to pay the rate. He said he looked forward to visiting the cinema again "and would like to think that the people looking after me while I'm here are being paid a decent wage." Mr Umunna also said that the national minimum wage was insufficient to live on in London.

Sadly, for the second weekend in a row strike action over the London Living Wage has closed the Ritzy to the public. Picturehouse Cinemas claims to "want to continue to work with BECTU to try to resolve the issue quickly". The union is waiting for the call.

The workforce is striving to achieve the London Living Wage at Picturehouse's  flagship venue, a thriving community resource at the heart of Brixton with several screens, bars and restaurant. Staff there are paid £7.24 an hour whilst the London Living Wage - embraced by employers across industry in the capital - is set at £8.80.

Instead of resuming negotiations with BECTU following an 85 per cent vote in favour of strike action last month, the cinema's management opted to close the cinema on Friday 11 April and again on two days this Easter weekend. Staff took strike action yesterday Good Friday and today's action (19 April) will continue until 3am.

The cinema will re-open on Easter Sunday from 10am.

Ritzy workers maintained a picket line throughout the whole of Easter Saturday, 19 April 2014. Pic BECTU

Gerry Morrissey, BECTU general secretary, also supported the Ritzy branch this morning, spending several hours with BECTU members.

National officials Gus Baker and Sofie Mason also provided support for the skilled branch reps and members who again delivered an effective presence outside the venue, speaking to locals, explaining their case and providing entertainment for everyone including for children who would otherwise have enjoyed the Ritzy's regular Saturday morning kids' club.

Other visitors too

Actors James Nesbitt and Elizabeth Berrington also took time out to visit the workforce, underlining the close working relationship between their own union, Equity, and BECTU, both part of the Federation of Entertainment Unions.

Commenting on today's action Gerry Morrissey said:

"Congratulations to our members at the Ritzy; they have massive community support for their Living Wage campaign and their determination and focus is an inspiration. Dignity at work is what BECTU is all about and staff at the Ritzy deserve this too.  Does Picturehouse really believe that its staff are not worth £8.80 an hour?"

"Unfortunately, the longer this dispute persists the more dogma appears to drive Picturehouse's thinking. The union's claim is wholly affordable and entirely just."

The Picturehouse chain, with a turnover in excess of £30m, was bought by the multi-national cinema business, Cineworld in December 2012.

Follow the campaign on twitter @ritzylivingwage and @bectu

Want to know more? Watch this video from 11 April courtesy of  http://reelnews.co.uk/

Take a small step to help workers at the Ritzy? Sign the petition linked into this page.

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Updated 20 April 2014.