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Strikers shut cinema in battle for living wage
"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:
- No to poverty wages: £10 an hour living wage for all!
- Link up the struggles: strikes should coordinate for maximum impact
Spread the dispute: campaign to unionise other Brixton and Cineworld workplaces to fight for the living wage
Messages of support should go to email@example.com
Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777
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