Ritzy workers maintaining a picket line. Pic: BECTU
31 July 2014
"Voyage to higher pay" on offer after 15-week dispute.
Late-night talks between BECTU and Picturehouse at conciliation service ACAS have produced a two-year schedule of pay increases at the Ritzy. Over nearly four months the Brixton Cinema, owned by Picturehouse, has been hit by repeated industrial action, and despite management intransigence, members reaffirmed their willingness to continue the pay dispute by a 97 per cent majority in early July.
Talks at ACAS, which ran until 3am on 31 July, produced a new offer from Picturehouse which fell short of immediately conceding the London Living Wage of £8.80 per hour, but laid out a calendar to pay this rate to all staff on main grades by September 2015.
Central to the new offer is a supplement of 80p per hour which will be paid on time worked, holiday entitlement, sickness absence, and will count towards pension contributions.
Including this supplement, staff are being offered an immediate pay increase from £7.35 per hour to £8.00, back-dated to October 2013, and supervisors will retain their differential of 50p per hour. On 5 September this will rise to £8.20 per hour, followed by a further increase to £8.40 per hour on 2 January 2015. The final rise to £8.80 will take place on 4 September 2015.
To take account of the likely increase in the LLW, probably in November 2014, negotiators built in further set of pay talks in June 2016 aimed at a two-year settlement with a guaranteed minimum rise to £9.10 an hour. Picturehouse acknowledged that the offer fell short of the union's aims, but promised to cooperate with the union on "a journey of delivery towards higher pay".
"We are two thirds of the way there"
BECTU general secretary Gerry Morrissey, who led the ACAS union team, said: "This is a very welcome move by the company, and although it's not completely what we wanted, we are two thirds of the way there. The last third will depend on Picturehouse recognising the contribution made by staff, and their determined commitment to win the London Living Wage in 2016".
The new package will go to a ballot of Ritzy members beginning shortly after 4 August, and the union will be recommending that it should be accepted.
Morrissey paid tribute to members at the Ritzy, saying: "None of this would have happened without the massive commitment of union members and their representatives at the cinema. They won the support of cinema-goers and the local community with their unique mix of gritty determination and good humour, and should be proud of the progress they've made.
"Given the pressure that Picturehouse has been under from multinational owner Cineworld to concede nothing, this represents a breakthrough that I hope will give low-paid workers in cinemas and other industries the encouragement to stand up for better treatment."
The Ritzy dispute has become a cause célèbre for the arts community and trades unionists across London. Leading celebrities, including performers, musicians, and household names in the cinema industry have joined clerics and politicians in denouncing Picturehouse. Many of them have made visits to the picket line, while Ritzy members themselves have linked up with other workers, both in related cinemas and those in other disputes around the capital.
Efforts to promote a boycott of Picturehouse venues across the UK will now be suspended, but BECTU has thanked the many unions, branches, and trades councils who have responded enthusiastically to a labour-movement squeeze on the chain if necessary.
Although it has recommended the ACAS package to members at the Ritzy, the union has emphasised that in the long run, it is still determined to win the London Living Wage for staff across Picturehouse and other London cinemas.
The ballot closing date is Tuesday 26 August.
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