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Picturehouse members renew mandate for strike action

30 August 2017

Union members at selected Picturehouse Cinemas have voted in huge numbers to continue their strike action in pursuit of the Living Wage.

The renewed mandates for strike action come close to a year after the current dispute got underway in September 2016 with strike action at Brixton's Ritzy cinema. 

In less than 12 months, the dispute has both escalated and expanded with union members at Picturehouse locations in Brighton (Duke of Yorks), Central London, Crouch End, East Dulwich and Hackney joining with members in Brixton to press the case for improvements in terms and conditions headlined by the Living Wage.

Overwhelming mandates

In the case of the Ritzy Cinema, where BECTU has formal union recognition, 77% of members took part in the August ballot which closed yesterday. Strike action was backed by 92% of members with 8% of those taking part voting against. A single unified ballot amongst members at the five other venues saw 61% of members taking part; 96% of members voted in favour of strike action with 4% of members voting against. 

Despite members at all venues backing close to 60 strikes over the past 11 months, management refuses to negotiate with BECTU on what is widely regarded as a just and necessary claim. The official Living Wage in London, set by the Living Wage Foundation, stands at £9.75 an hour, with the outer London rate set at £8.45 an hour.

Active support from Picturehouse cinema goers, local residents and leading figures in the creatives industries has helped to sustain members throughout the long campaign.

Members 'as determined as ever'

Commenting on the ballot results, Alisdair Cairns, a representative at the Hackney Picturehouse speaking on behalf of BECTU's Picturehouse representatives, said:

“Our campaign has lasted over a year now. The tactics employed by Picturehouse over that period have appeared to be deliberate attempts to grind us down and demoralise us. We’ve received countless threats from their lawyers, we’ve seen our friends and colleagues needlessly disciplined and in some cases sacked, and we’ve still heard nothing with regards to resuming negotiations.

"These ballots show conclusively that the management's strategy hasn't worked, and that we are just as determined as ever to win the Living Wage and fair, reasonable working conditions. We call again on Picturehouse management to recognise their responsibilities to staff and to agree to talks with BECTU."

BECTU officials await the outcome of an hearing for interim relief held at the Employment Tribunals in Croydon on Thursday 10 August. The interim relief hearing followed Picturehouse's decision to dismiss three BECTU representatives at the Ritzy in June 2017. 

The Living Staff Living Wage campaign, first begun in 2013 at the Ritzy Cinema, has brought the need for the Living Wage at Picturehouse, and in the wider economy, to great public attention. Between 2013-14, BECTU members at the Ritzy staged 13 strikes; the dispute was eventually settled with a pay increase of 26% which still left basic pay rates short of the then Living Wage.

In the meantime Picturehouse Cinemas, an arthouse cinema brand, continues to contribute to the profitablility of its parent company Cineworld, the second largest cinema circuit in Europe with over 2000 screens. For 2016, Cineworld posted profits of £93.8m, an 18.3% increase on the previous year.

Representatives will be getting together soon to discuss the next steps in the campaign.

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