the media and entertainment union
a sector of Prospect
Picturehouse sackings condemned as trade union dismissals

Support for the Living Wage campaign has grown to six venues over the past year including the Duke of York's in Brighton pictured on 18 March 2017.

15 June 2017

Picturehouse has dismissed three union representatives at the Ritzy cinema in the long-running dispute about the Living Wage; BECTU is preparing to challenge the sackings in the tribunals. The following press release was issued today, Thursday 15 June.

 Press release for immediate use

Thursday 15 June 2017

BECTU condemns Picturehouse sackings as trade union dismissals

Three union representatives at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton have been dismissed by Picturehouse in a move described by their trade union BECTU as trade union dismissals. A fourth representative has received a final written warning. BECTU, a sector of the 140,000 strong Prospect union, has warned that management’s action, confirmed to the representatives yesterday, Wednesday 14 June, could escalate the already entrenched industrial dispute between BECTU and Picturehouse.

The reps were dismissed as a result of an email sent to union members reporting discussions at a union meeting.

The disciplinary action comes after BECTU representatives renewed their high profile campaign to secure the Living Wage at Picturehouse, a leading art house cinema chain, which claims to be both progressive and ethical.

More than 50 strikes have been held since September 2016 and the dispute has grown to include workers at six Picturehouse venues: Picturehouse Central, Hackney Picturehouse, Crouch End Picturehouse, East Dulwich Picturehouse, Brighton’s Duke of York’s and the Brixton Ritzy.

Profit-making

The Picturehouse group, owned by cinema giant Cineworld, the second largest circuit in Europe, is profit-making and can afford to pay the Living Wage. The UK Living Wage Foundation sets rates each November; the current rates are £9.75 an hour in London and £8.45 outside London with more and more companies adopting the benchmarks.

Picturehouse staff in London, where living costs continue to rise, are paid £9.10 an hour at the Ritzy and £9.05 an hour at other venues. Picturehouse's regional hourly rate is £8.18. In 2015 Cineworld posted profits of £83.8million, followed in 2016 by pre-tax profits of £98million. Cineworld CEO, Mooky Greidenger earned £1.2million in 2015, or £575 an hour. In 2016, the CEO's anual pay escalated to £2.5million. 

Despite growing support for the Living Staff Living Wage campaign from the creative community, both at home and abroad, and from Picturehouse patrons, many of whom have refused to renew their membership until the company pays the Living Wage, management has consistently refused to negotiate on the union’s pay and conditions claims.

BECTU is preparing a tribunal claim

Gerry Morrissey, head of BECTU, said:

“We believe that our reps at the Ritzy have been dismissed due to their trade union membership and activities and we will challenge these decisions in the strongest terms. Our reps across Picturehouse have been fighting for fair pay and for dignity at work. Our first step in supporting our reps will be to launch Employment Tribunal claims and to seek interim relief for these trade union dismissals.”

“We have been ready to negotiate with the employer since last June. Instead we’ve met with stone-walling from a management which claims to be community-minded but which has refused to negotiate at every turn, even rejecting an approach from ACAS, the government’s conciliation service.

“Management won’t break the dispute by disciplining and sacking our reps; we urge the company to put their energies into resolving this dispute and into restoring their battered reputation.”

Picturehouse now falls behind competitors, Curzon Cinemas, which adopted the Living Wage in 2014 after a campaign by BECTU.   

BECTU will seek interim relief in the employment tribunals to challenge these dismissals for trade union activity. If the Employment Tribunal rules in favour of the BECTU reps the employer could be ordered either to reinstate the individuals, to place them at an alternative site or to suspend them on full pay, pending a full hearing.

The union’s commitment to the dispute is undiminished. BECTU reps across the Picturehouse chain are preparing for further strike action. The union will soon serve notice of further stoppages on Saturday 1 July and Friday 7 July.

ENDS

For more information contact the BECTU press office on 020 7346 0900 or by email to communications@bectu.org.uk

Notes for editors:

1.What is interim relief?

This is a special kind of application in which claimants apply to the tribunal when it is believed that dismissal is for one of a list of specific reasons, including acting as a health and safety rep, engaging in lawful trade union duties or activities, acting as a trustee of an occupational pension scheme,  acting as a rep for collective consultation over redundancies or TUPE, or whistle-blowing.  A claim for interim relief must be brought within seven days of dismissal.

2. Picturehouse dispute – the current campaign has its roots in a 2007 pay dispute when reps at the Ritzy took successful action to lift pay rates above the then minimum wage. In 2014, the Living Staff, Living Wage campaign was launched focused on achieving the Living Wage as the baseline for pay at the Ritzy. Thirteen strikes between April – September  2016 led to a pay increase of 26%; however pay rates remain below the Living Wage. The dispute now involves staff at six Picturehouse venues (listed above). 

Query about this article? Contact us.

Amended to clarify the position on the email and to add in a reference to Picturehouse's regional hourly rate of £8.18.

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