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From The Socialist newspaper, 16 April 2014

Strikers shut cinema in battle for living wage

James Ivens

"The Dude minds, man! This just won't stand!" Workers at the Ritzy Picturehouse in London are fed up with poverty wages. "The Dude" quoted on their placards is the hard-partying protagonist in cult film The Big Lebowski. Their strike on 11 April was as much a festival as a picket line. The Dude would have been proud.

Members of media and entertainment union Bectu are fighting for the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour. They are paid a measly £7.24. Picturehouse Cinemas, their employer, is part of the Cineworld chain - the largest in Europe by number of screens. Bosses plan to spend £20 million opening new cinemas. So why can't they afford an extra £1.56 for their staff?

The Ritzy is known for the creative events made possible by its workers. They brought the same passion to industrial action. Parents could not attend the Ritzy's popular, baby-friendly daytime screening. Reps arranged musicians and comedians to entertain them outside instead - including "Anti-Dühring Battalion", a Socialist Party member.

Strikers danced in placard-waving conga lines round Brixton's Windrush Square. The cinema was shut all day. The party atmosphere lasted well into the night.

Backing for the campaign has been enormous. One rep said he was "more than snowed in" by messages of support. Socialist film-maker Ken Loach and writer Irvine Welsh have publicly expressed solidarity. The campaign's Twitter and Facebook pages have seen substantial growth in followers. Customers constantly ask workers about progress.

Chris Baugh, assistant general secretary of public sector union PCS, visited in the morning. He discussed linking strike action with Bectu officials. Local trade unionists and Socialist Party members supported throughout the day. The Brixton Bugle newspaper has reported the backing of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC). Ritzy Pickets, in turn, sent solidarity to the Care UK and Lambeth College strikes.

Workers have planned a series of escalating actions. On Friday 18 April, they will walk out again, and stay out on Easter Saturday too. The struggle is becoming something of a cause célèbre. Poverty pay just will not stand, man.

The Socialist Party says:

Spread the dispute: campaign to unionise other Brixton and Cineworld workplaces to fight for the living wage
Messages of support should go to

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In The Socialist 16 April 2014:

Socialist Party election campaigning

Help TUSC offer a no-cuts alternative on 22 May

Election appeal: help us make history

More cuts and another resignation in Southampton

Socialist Party news and analysis

Profit vultures out of NHS

Ending MPs' expenses scandal requires socialist change

Con-Dems escalate housing crisis

Tamiflu scandal exposes bloodsucking big pharma

Pit closures: Final act of Tory vandalism

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

40 years of the Committee for a Workers' International

India: massive election process could end in turmoil

Socialist Party workplace news

Gains for left on NUT executive

Stop the education catastrophe!

Health workers vote to fight government pay cuts

Strikers shut cinema in battle for living wage

Let down by Welsh Labour

RMT: Put the tube strike back on and escalate

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Beating Bedroom Tax evictions

NUS conference: sip tea or put up a serious fight?

Goldthorpe: Anger at Thatcher's destruction of mining

Anti-austerity demonstration called in Salford

May Day greetings with the Socialist

Readers' comments

Hard loads - and a fightback - on the bins

Working on zero-hour contracts

Disgusted at politicians' big business links


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