Last year the NRFF hosted its main event in Cinema City, a member of the ‘independent’ Picturehouse franchise. After much debate, the venue was finally selected as the lesser of evils among Norwich’s shoddy closed-shop of a cinema scene, after a boycott on the chain had come to an end a year prior to that. A year later however, the chain has come under fire once more for its sacking of four staff in the run up to a strike for livable wages and improved working conditions. Now, as we stand in solidarity with those employees and their striking colleagues, we call on our supporters to also back the latest boycott. Norwich-based campaigner Lewis Martin explains why this cause matters.
In July, Cineworld PLC, the owners of the Picturehouse theatre chain, sacked four employees of the Ritzy Cinema who were fighting for a living wage as well a better maternity and sick pay. All four of these worker happened to be union reps. As a result of this, there has been a call by activists for a national Boycott of the Picturehouse chain across the country, the second such boycott in 3 years, in solidarity with the four Ritzy staff.
The request from the workers – which will resonate with many people across our current society – is a simple one. A fair day’s work should receive a fair days pay. Like any other industry, so many of those working in cinemas are currently under attack from greedy bosses, who are willing to cream off millions from a company’s profit, only to then stamp down the wages of their workers, and sack the ones that speak out, or try and make a difference. This is incredibly evident with Picturehouse workers as Cineworld made £90 million in profit in 2016, while the CEO awarded themselves £2 million, plus bonuses, while the staff ask to be paid £9.45-an-hour, and have to take drastic action in order to try and achieve it.
While I’m not a member of the BECTU union, or a Picturehouse worker, I fully support and understand their campaign across the country. Having scraped by in numerous jobs that have paid me the bare minimum, struggling to survive on due to the coupling of a zero hour contract, the paying of living wage can make a world of difference. It’s the difference between having to fight to work 30-40 hours a week as standard, and to having to work much less, with reduced stress, increased leisure time and improved overall happiness.
Cinema is a place millions of people the world over use to escape from the real world, via the telling of different stories. However for those working at Picturehouse, it has become a battleground for those who are ultimately fighting for the ability to survive. While the company is also to blame for the continued gentrification of the once simple cinema outing, (ask anyone in Norwich about Cinema City and Take Five), they owe a duty to its workers to ensure that they have the options to unionise and also be able to live on the wages that they earn.
If you wish to donate to the strike fund and help those on strike currently, you can donate here.