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The News Line: Feature Picturehouse strikers continue defying sack threat
Saturday’s lively Hackney Picturehouse picket line
OVER the weekend, Picturehouse cinema chain BECTU members continued to defy a threat to sack them if they continued their strike action in a dispute over pay and conditions.


The workers began a wave of nine strike actions last Wednesday, with five London Picturehouses – Ritzy, Hackney Picturehouse, Picturehouse Central, Crouch End Picturehouse and East Dulwich – on strike on Wednesday and holding a joint demonstration in Leicester Square to coincide with the launch of the BFI London Film Festival. Picturehouse Central and Hackney Picturehouse were on strike from 5pm-7pm on Friday, Saturday and yesterday.

News Line spoke to strikers and their supporters at Picturehouse Central on Saturday.
They were chanting: ‘What’s disgusting – union busting! What’s outrageous – poverty wages! What do we want – a living wage!’

Strikers said: ‘We’re asking people to boycott Picturehouse and support our strike for the London Living Wage. We want the reinstatement of our union reps and an end to union-busting.’

BECTU negotiating executive officer Kevin Carson said: ‘Our members are determined to win the London Living Wage and proper working conditions. They are also fighting for proper union recognition with BECTU, not the sham staff association. Picturehouse has threatened to sack our strikers.

‘The company are fiddling the figures by paying for breaks. It claims this means it is paying the London Living Wage so the strike is illegal. The latest we’ve heard is their managers have discretion on how to deal with strikes. So far, we haven’t heard of anyone being sacked. So we think they are going to wait until this is finished.’

Striker Nessa said: ‘We had a good demonstration on Wednesday evening. We managed to get the attention of Andrew Garfield who plays Spiderman on the red carpet, as well as director and actor Andy Serkis who said he supported us and if he weren’t on the red carpet he would have been with us. And we’ve been having support from Ken Loach and other stars.’

Picturehouse Central BECTU rep Andrea Cencioni said: ‘On Wednesday the action went really well. Five London Picturehouses are on strike. We had a successful joint demonstration in Leicester Square on Wednesday evening. We had an amazing response on social media and in the newspapers. And we had support from Andrew Garfield and the director Andy Serkis.’

Joe Parker, Picturehouse Central BECTU member added: ‘We were on strike again yesterday.
‘That went very well. We had overwhelming support from the public. Many people would not go in the cinema and asked for a refund.

‘And press visitors to the London Film Festival said they would not go in, they would not cross the picket line. After Wednesday we had a lot of support from Picturehouse members and customers. We are determined to win the London Living Wage, to get recognition of BECTU and to be treated with dignity and respect. We are not put off by any threats given to strikers.’

Fellow Picturehouse Central BECTU member Niall McGleenam said: ‘I’m striking because Picturehouse has the means to pay the London Living Wage but has chosen not to do so. Everybody deserves to have a decent standard of living. We didn’t come up with the amount we are asking for, we consulted the independent Living Wage Foundation. It’s expensive to live in London.

‘The strike is slowly gathering momentum and I think it’s a matter of time before we succeed. We’ve had very good support from the public and people in the entertainment industry. The Picturehouse threat to sack strikers has firmed members as it shows the company’s true colours. We will see things out until we win.’

Shopworker Andy Gates said: ‘I worked at Picturehouse a year ago. I’m here to support the workers fighting for basic rights and to be treated with dignity. People say you can’t organise casual workers but the dockers managed it in the 1800s and became one of the country’s strongest unions. If workers stand together there’s no reason why we can’t do the same.’

Journalism student Irina Iacob said: ‘I’m reporting the cinema workers’ struggle to bring awareness of their cause. I feel it is not fair for any worker not to be paid a living wage. It is common sense that everyone should be paid a wage that they can afford to live on. It’s very expensive to live in London – I know that first hand. Everybody should support the strikers, get involved and let everyone know what they are doing.’

• At exactly 5pm on Saturday afternoon the cinema workers at the Hackney Picture House opposite Hackney Town Hall defied threats by the management that they would be sacked if they proceeded with their strike action and walked out. They shouted: ‘What do we want? The Living Wage!’ and waved homemade placards. They stopped passers by and those who were going to go into the cinema asking them to respect their picket line and explaining to them why they are out on strike.

Cinema worker and BECTU member Obi Sail told News Line: ‘Their threats to sack those on strike is basic intimidation and for managers to resort to such measures shows that it is the company itself who is scared. The company does not know what to do and is acting irrationally. The most important thing is that we do not give in to the management and stay united.

‘For our campaign to succeed we need the greater public to come on our picket, spread the message and join the fight. If they try and sack any one of us, even a single person then the rest of the labour movement must come out to defend the right to strike.

‘We are fighting for a Living Wage of £9.75. Currently, at the moment, we receive £9.30 so we are actually demanding technically a 45p an hour pay rise but this struggle is about more than this. The company must recognise our union BECTU. At the moment they do not even recognise BECTU as our union, so this is also a fight for union recognition.’
 
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