Workers at The Ritzy Cinema, Brixton, struck for the second time on Friday 18 April and Saturday 19 April, part of an escalating campaign of action for the Living Wage.
The picket line, timed to coincide with the release of The Amazing Spiderman 2, was lively and well attended. The energetic picket activity included a kids’ club, face painting, break dancing, music and Spiderman himself.
The BECTU strikers successfully closed the cinema for the second time, for the entire duration of the strike. Brixton, Lambeth, is in the midst of an acute, and worsening, housing crisis with house prices and rents sky-rocketing from already historic highs. In the last year alone, house prices have increased by 31.5%. It is in the context of these spiralling costs of living that the workers have been campaigning for a pay rise in line with the London Living Wage.
The Ritzy is one of the Picturehouse chain of art-house cinemas in the UK bought for £500 million by Cineworld in February this year.
The Ritzy is the most successful art-house cinema in the UK, with profits increasing by 140% in 2012 alone. It’s easy to see why the workers feel the London Living Wage is affordable for their bosses.
The Bectu campaign for the Living Wage has successfully played on the Ritzy's brand image of corporate responsibility and justice (it sells only fair trade food, hosts the Human Rights Festival and gives the impression of a small community picture house).
Given the vast profits the cinema makes and the risk to its valuable brand, The Ritzy is under considerable pressure to settle the dispute. Picturehouse and Cineworld nationally have a lot to lose by conceding to the demands of Bectu.
Ritzy Workers already earn more than those in other cinemas, due to a history of industrial organisation and struggle. A win for these workers sends a message to other cinema workers – joining a union, fighting alongside your workmates, taking a stand against your boss is worth it. In a relatively un-unionised industry, holding out and taking the profit hit is worth it for Cineworld bosses if they can make the strike unsustainable for badly paid, overstretched workers.
The labour movement and socialists must show the same resolve the bosses are. Bectu have not paid strike pay up until this point. We must start collections to raise money to pay Ritzy Workers taking action. Petition here.
Care UK workers continue fight
Around 80 out of 120 Care UK staff who work with vulnerable people with learning disabilities in Doncaster continue to refuse to sign new contracts.
The new terms would wipe out up to 50% of wages that comes from weekend and evening work, along with other benefits such as reducing sick pay from six months to one month, and not receiving anything for the first few days off.
There have been nearly three weeks of strikes since the dispute erupted in February at the private care company, with Unison members most recently striking over Easter weekend and planning a two-week strike in May.
In addition to the strikes, workers are attempting to put pressure on Bridgepoint, Care UK’s multi-million pound parent company, which also owns Pret A Manger, Fat Face, and Leeds Bradford Airport. This can help build solidarity between workers across the Bridgepoint empire, and raise the profile of the dispute. The public need to know about the profiteers behind privatised NHS contracts and the damage that is being done to workers and the knock-on threat to quality of care.
This erosion in service quality is allegedly already rife. Reports of Care UK’s actions during the strike are very concerning, including under-qualified staff and managers ignoring guidance around patient care (for instance around important medication and dietary issues). Already, more qualified staff are leaving Care UK for better paid jobs, which will likely lead to further depletion in patient safety and high quality care.
Poorly-paid and untrained workers are less equipped to deal with these incredibly demanding jobs, risking future cases of physical abuse such as those seen in the Winterbourne care home in Gloucestershire in 2011.
Striking workers at Care UK need financial and moral support. Send donations payable to Doncaster District and Bassetlaw Health Branch 20511 via the Unison Office, Jenkinson House, White Rose Way, Doncaster DN4 5GJ along with messages of support to email@example.com
Heathrow Express strike
Workers on the Heathrow Express service, which runs between London Paddington and Heathrow Airport, have voted to strike, as they attempt to stop a cuts plan that places 201 jobs at risk.
Workers voted by a nine to one majority to strike, and by an even greater one to take industrial action short of strikes.
Strikes will take place on 29 and 30 April, coinciding with London Underground workers' strikes.