On Friday the 18th and Saturday the 19th of April low-paid workers at the Ritzy cinema launched a second wave of strike action, demanding the London Living Wage (LLW) from their bosses. The current rate for the LLW is £8.80 an hour; the current hourly rate for most Ritzy staff is £7.24, some 18% below the London Living Wage.
The strikes by members of the Broadcasting Entertainment and Cinematography Trade Union (BECTU) have now shut down the popular south London cinema on two occassions, during their busiest trading days. Workers are planning a third strike on the 1st and 2nd of May.
The Ritzy cinema is a part of the Picturehouse chain of arthouse cinemas, owned by the Cineworld Group since 2012. The Cineworld Group is notorious for keeping nearly 4,000 of its workers on zero-hour contracts, about 80% of its workforce. Cineworld's Chief Executive Stephen Wiener is quoted as saying: "there are two types of zero-hours contracts; ones that don't give benefits to employees and ones that do. Ours do give benefits and a lot of these people work second jobs and we don't restrict them."
Cineworld Group are anxious that disatisfaction with their employment practices does not spread to other cinemas in the Picturehouse chain, and does not endanger their substantial profits. This latest action comes in the wake of an upsurge in grassroots organisation by workers at London's cinemas, including the BFI Southbank, the IMAX, and cinemas in the Curzon Group.
In support of the Ritzy workers' second strike, a dozen members of South London SolFed organised a picket at the largest cinema in the chain, the Cineworld O2, and at the nearby Picturehouse Greenwich.
At the O2 we leafleted workers, explaining the situation at the Ritzy cinema, before leafleting customers. Boths workers and customers were very supportive of the campaign for a living wage, and were interested in finding out more about the potential for further industrial action based around the demand for the living wage and better contracts. When it became clear we were disrupting the flow of customers, the cinema manager instructed security to throw us out. We then leafleted the entrance to the building, before being again violently removed by O2 security guards.