Living wage victory at Curzon cinemas

Workers at the Curzon organised for more than a year to secure union recognition; that has now been followed by agreement to pay the living wage.

29 October 2014

BECTU and Curzon Cinemas have today confirmed that staff at the chain will be paid the Living Wage from January 2015. Curzon is the first cinema operator to adopt the Living Wage.

BECTU issued the following press release today, Wednesday 29 October:

BECTU secures living wage victory at Curzon Cinemas

Almost a year on from winning recognition at Curzon Cinemas, BECTU has secured an agreement with the company to pay the Living Wage. In a landmark, hard-fought move, this makes Curzon the first cinema chain to embrace the measure which recommends an hourly rate for workers in and outside London.

This welcome news contrasts sharply with the attitude of Curzon’s competitors, Picturehouse, which yesterday confirmed its intent to cut 34 jobs out of 79 at the Ritzy Cinema to finance a pay settlement last month which agreed moves towards a rate equivalent to the London Living Wage. A ballot for strike action at the Ritzy gets underway on 4 November.  

Immediate increase

Thanks to the new Curzon agreement however, the company’s London-based staff will see their pay increase to £8 an hour, whilst their colleagues out of London will earn £7 an hour, both increases to take effect from 1 October 2014.

These increases will be followed in January 2015 with payment of the current Living Wage rates. [On 2 November Living Wage rises for 2014-15 were confirmed as £9.15 per hour in London and £7.85 per hour outside London]. The new agreement is underpinned by a commitment to pay the Living Wage on an on-going basis “as long as the rate does not increase in excess of 3% above RPI”.

Welcoming the agreement, endorsed by BECTU members in a ballot last week, Philip Knatchbull, CEO of Curzon, said:

“We hugely value and appreciate our front line cinema staff for their enthusiasm and knowledge of film that, together with outstanding customer service, enhances the cinema-going experience and helps to make Curzon special. It really is in recognition of that and the desire to pay people a fair wage that we decided last year we needed to move to the Living Wage. It is very satisfying now to be in a position to be able to make that a reality.”

BECTU’s general secretary, Gerry Morrissey, added:

“BECTU welcomes the new agreement with Curzon Cinemas and we are proud of the successful conclusion to negotiations between our members and Curzon management. BECTU is, and has always been, passionate about eradicating low pay and we can see no reason why other cinema chains cannot follow the Curzon lead. Today's agreement shows that our objective for everyone to receive a living wage is not a matter of if but when.”

The Curzon staff’s fight for recognition in 2013 was backed by nearly 7,000 customers signing an online petition. BECTU also acknowledges the critical and creative support of directors Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, producer Stanley Schtinter, Equity’s general secretary, Christine Payne, and comedian Mark Thomas. 

Creative collaboration

“The campaign for recognition, and subsequently for the Living Wage, brought Curzon and Ritzy staff together into a wonderfully creative collaboration inspiring wave after wave of support from members at the BFI, Cineworld, Odeon, Coronet and Everyman,” said BECTU’s national official, Sofie Mason, who has been central to the campaign. 

A March for the Living Wage in July 2014 took cinema workers from Waterloo Bridge, past the head offices of Picturehouse and Curzon, to a rally outside City Hall on the Southbank with guest speaker Ken Loach.

“Hats off to Curzon management and staff! This is an historic step forward. Curzon is the first commercial cinema chain to pay the living wage,” Sofie Mason added.  

The new agreement at Curzon will benefit the majority of the chain’s 100 front-of-house employees.

Commenting on the agreement, BECTU’s Curzon branch said:

“We are so grateful for all the overwhelming support we've received from such a variety of individuals, artists, activists and organisations who have been essential in helping us get to this point – not least the 6,808 customers who signed our petition. THANK YOU SO MUCH.

“Every one of one you has given us the courage and support to keep going. A huge thank you to all the BECTU members at Curzon in London and across the country - you are, without doubt, the fuel to this victory. We hope the new way of working with Curzon will inspire all other low waged workers across the country to stand up for themselves and get what they deserve. It's about time. Thank you again for all your support. We could not have done it without every one of you. Thank you!

“Faith is taking the firsts step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” Martin Luther King, Jr.”


For more information contact BECTU’s press office on 020 7346 0900; alternatively email Sofie Mason

Original story updated 10 November 2014 with Living Wage rates for 2014-15.