Today Ritzy workers launched their Boycott Picturehouse campaign after another successful strike day. Lois and Estelle report from the picket line:
Ritzy workers went into their eighth strike day today after an increased ballot for strike action of 95 percent. We caught up with Robyn, BECTU rep at the Ritzy, about how the campaign was going:
“We were supposed to negotiate on the 4th June, but the day before management called a meeting where they offered us a 4 percent pay rise – that’s 29p. We went to the meeting as reps but very few union members went because they just don’t see the point anymore. As far as we were concerned this negated the talks we were meant to be having the next day.”
Since these failed talks at the beginning of June, the Ritzy campaign has continued to grow with a big presence on Pride on 28th June and the impressive, new Ritzy flag was flown at the front of Dolly Parton’s set at Glastonbury.
Despite this growing pressure, when it comes to negotiating management seem to remain uncompromising. According to Robyn,
“They’re still saying they can’t afford to pay us living wage. They’re offering to incorporate it into a bonus scheme, so performance related pay over the next year might get us an extra £1 or something, but we have always said for us that the living wage was our bottom line. We’re not doing this just for the money though; we’re also doing it for the very principle of being valued in the workplace.”
One of the features about the cinema struggles that has surprised many activists is that although some of the workers are indeed part-time, they are by no means irregular or temporary workers. If anything, many of them have worked there for years and you are perhaps more likely to find a high turnover at management level. This fact makes Cineworld’s intransigence all the more galling.
“To be honest,” Robyn said, “I wasn’t originally going to stay there as long as I have ended up staying, but I really do love working there. Obviously none of us love the conditions at the moment, but we do care about the job. This is one of three jobs I have at the moment but it’s a big part of my life. So many people who work here are really skilled artists and creatives, but it’s not just about that. Everyone has different skills and everyone should be entitled to a wage that they can survive on.”
“One of the most notable things about our campaign is how unionising and organising builds the confidence of our members. It’s almost as if the freedom and authority that they may not find in the workplace, they can get in the campaign. So many of our members have really found their voice as the strikes have gone on”
Today was the launch of the Boycott Picturehouse call. We asked Robyn how the workers had finally come to this conclusion and what’s next for the campaign.
“Our most recent meeting with management was a couple of weeks ago just before Glastonbury. We went to Head Office and we are always prepared to take every opportunity to communicate with them but they offered us nothing new. To be honest lots of Picturehouse customers have been saying to us for a while they are going to stop or have already stopped coming to the Ritzy. If they can charge nearly a tenner for a pizza and still won’t pay staff £8.80 an hour it’s a bit of a joke really.
The boycott is the culmination of failed negotiations and the momentum and support for our campaign continuing to grow. We have lost a lot of faith in Picturehouse’s willingness to resolve this in the past few weeks so we have a number of events lined up in the next few weeks that we are really encouraging supporters to come to.”
We also chatted to Anna Watt, a supporter from Effra Parade, “I used to come to the Ritzy a lot but I have decided to stop coming now. To continue to put up your prices, but not reward the staff is a step too far for me.”
In the next few weeks there’s a number of events for supporters of the Ritzy workers to get down to. The series of events begins with a presence on the 10th July public sector strike day in central London.
At 1pm on Thursday 17th July there is a cinema workers rally organised by Bectu that will bring together front of house staff from Odeon, Cineworld, Curzon and Everyman in support of the Ritzy workers marching through the West End and culminating with speeches outside the GLA.
Sign the petition here and come to the rally!
Finally, a couple more pictures from the strike today: