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Ritzy volte-face forces new strike

3 June 2014

Industrial action is resumed at Brixton cinema as management cancel peace talks.

BECTU members at the Brixton Ritzy Cinema are now due to go on strike from 6.00 a.m. on Saturday 7th June following a shock decision by management to pull out of talks about the London Living Wage.

BECTU will also be calling on the Trades Union Congress, and unions in the entertainment industry, to organise a boycott among  their members of all UK cinemas operated by PictureHouse, which runs the Ritzy.

The management turnaround happened swiftly and unexpectedly. After five days of strike action to win payment of the £8.80 per hour living wage, members at the iconic South London venue were promised talks on Wednesday 4th June, when the operator, PictureHouse, owned by multi-national screen giant Cineworld, was expected to offer the full rate by October 2015.

However, just a day before the planned talks, PictureHouse announced to staff at the Ritzy that the company had cancelled the negotiations with BECTU, and instead of reaching agreement on the living wage of £8.80, would impose a 29p per hour pay increase on basic rates for staff, leaving them on £7.53 an hour.

Union negotiators reacted angrily to the turnaround of PictureHouse in a dispute that has already closed the Ritzy five times. "Until today we thought we were on course to an amicable agreement with Ritzy management", said BECTU General Secretary Gerry Morrissey, "but their move to buy off the determined and well-organised members in the Ritzy with another cut-price pay offer is a big mistake," continued Morrissey.

"The Ritzy workforce has called for fair pay throughout this dispute, and they know this means at least the London Living Wage. We are willing to bargain over the timetable for the full rate to be introduced, and even offered the Ritzy a get-out if the figure for 2015 exceeds inflation by more than 2%. The move by PictureHouse and Cineworld to scupper our talks on Wednesday is a destructive and dishonest trick that deserves to back-fire on them badly", said Morrissey.

BECTU has now given formal notice to Ritzy management that strike action will begin at 6.00 a.m. on Saturday 7th June, and finish at 3.00 a.m. on the following Sunday morning - timings which demonstrate the long and anti-social hours that cinema workers have to endure.

During previous stoppages by BECTU members at the Ritzy, the strikers have been given vocal and financial support by the local community, and the cinema has closed to the public every time. Union members at the cinema are planning a lively picket on Saturday, and hope that PictureHouse regulars will support them in their fight for fair pay, and that trade union members will join the widening boycott of the group's up-market screens across the UK.