The ongoing struggle of cinema workers at the Picturehouse chain continued over the Easter weekend, on Saturday 15th April, with co-ordinated strike action taking place from 1pm across five different London locations.
Workers at six Picturehouse cinemas are now involved in the fight for a living wage and decent terms and conditions, with staff at the East Dulwich branch going on strike for the first time on Saturday. In order to boost the confidence of the Dulwich Picturehouse workers, those on strike from other London cinemas – the Ritzy, Hackney, Central, and Crouch End – joined their comrades in Dulwich on the picket line.
“We at East Dulwich have seen the campaign growing and it’s become clear that we need to be a part of it,” noted one striking worker at Saturday’s picket. “It isn't just about Picturehouse. It's about all workers, especially those below the national average pay.”
“People should not be forced into work ill or face being unable to pay their rent. We should not live in fear of having our hours drastically reduced in quieter months.”
Community activists, including local Momentum members, were involved in volunteering at the other striking sites, handing out leaflets to cinemagoers and passers-by to explain the reasons for the strike and why solidarity was needed. Socialist Appeal supporters in Hackney Momentum went down to our local picket line to support the strike and help spread the word.
As we have reported previously, despite the Picturehouse’s parent company – Cineworld – recording record profits of almost £84 million, cinema staff are currently paid less than a living wage, as well as receiving unacceptable levels of sick pay and no maternity/paternity/adoption pay.
Meanwhile, Picturehouse management have refused to recognise the workers’ union, BECTU, at several of the cinemas, despite the overwhelming majority of the staff being union members. The Picturehouse workers at these locations – including the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton – are therefore fighting for union recognition also.
Support for the strike is strong, both amongst the workers themselves and within the wider community. In Hackney, Crouch End, Central, and the Rizty, union members voted 97% in favour of strike action, whilst in Brighton there was a unanimous backing for the strike. At the same time, celebrities such as Ken Loach, Sir Ian McKellen, and American actress Susan Sarandon (amongst others) have given their support to the workers’ campaign for a boycott of the Picturehouse chain, which owns 24 cinemas in total across the country.
At the same time, bosses at the cinema company are now trying to undermine and break the strike by recruiting scab labour – precarious, zero-hour contract workers who can be moved to striking sites at short notice. Striking workers are alert to this danger, however, and are attempting to organise all new workers and bring them into the strike
This is the only way forward for the struggle – to unite and fight. It is vital that the rest of the labour movement support this fight by the Picturehouse workers, organising those in precarious conditions – such as the gig economy – and taking a stand against all cases of pitiful pay. And with a general election now coming up, we all have the opportunity to fight against the exploitation of the bosses by kicking out the Tories who represent them and campaigning for a socialist Labour government.