BFI urged to stop using Picturehouse venues during LFF

Living Wage demonstration at the 2017 London Film Festival.

30 July 2018

BECTU is appealing to the BFI to stop using Picturehouse venues for screenings during this year's London Film Festival.

The move comes after the Employment Tribunals finding that Picturehouse did unfairly dismiss union representatives from the Ritzy last year and that the individuals' union activity played a part in management's decision to dismiss. 

The BFI has a long-standing recognition agreement with both BECTU and Unite and adopted the Living Wage as a key benchmark for staff salaries following talks with the unions several years ago.  

"The BFI is a leading organisation in UK film and we urge them to take a stand on this issue. The BFI believes in the Living Wage and is playing an increasing role in championing ethics and ethical behaviour in the industry.

"We want the BFI's management to move London Film Festival screenings slated for Picturehouse venues to other locations given the long running dispute over the Living Wage at Picturehouse. 

"The union has made a similar appeal before. We urge the BFI to take this request more seriously given the tribunals' criticism of Picturehouse.

"The London Film Festival is a celebration of international film-making which will be best mounted without the involvement of Picturehouse at this time, " explained Helen Ryan, BECTU's assistant national secretary. 

Tribunals criticise Picturehouse managers

The Employment Tribunals' ruling in the case of the BECTU representatives, who brought claims for unfair dismissal and for victimisation for trade union activities was hugely critical of Picturehouse management 

The tribunal judgement reads:

"There was a failure, however, at all stages of the process for the respondent to properly engage with the nature of the claimants defence.”

“Further, we conclude that the penalties applied to both claimants were outside the band of reasonable responses”.

The tribunal panel concludes “Accordingly, in a number of respects the dismissals were unfair.”

The judgement also says “All members of the tribunal agree that the background union activities of the claimants played a part in the decision-making of the respondent." 

Long running dispute

Workers at the Ritzy cinema in Brixton, joined by fellow trade union members at Picturehouse venues in Central London, Crouch End, East Dulwich and Hackney, have mounted persistent strike action since September 2016 in a bid to win their dispute with the Picturehouse circuit which is owned by cinema exhibition giant Cineworld. The campaign, backed by widespread community support, has included several demonstrations too including at the 2017 London Film Festival. 

In the union's letter to the BFI, dated 24 July 2018, several alternative screening venues were suggested including the Rio Dalston, BAFTA, Tate Modern Starr Cinema, the Barbican, the Curzon circuit, Peckham Plex and Soho House.

Due to annual leave at the BFI a full response to the union's proposal is not expected until August. 

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