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Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has offered his “full solidarity” in support of striking Picturehouse workers, and called on the cinema chain to reinstate four sacked BECTU reps “with immediate effect”, according to the Living Wage campaign.

The Corbyn statement said: “I want to send my solidarity to BECTU members on strike at Picturehouse cinemas on 8th March.

“I fully support your campaign to be paid the real Living Wage and to tackle the injustices that you face in your workplace. We desperately need an economy that works for the many, not the few. For too many people, work is insecure and low-paid. On International Women’s Day, it is right that we recognise that women are disproportionately affected by poverty pay and strengthen our resolve to tackle it.”

It adds: ”Union reps should not be dismissed for standing up for their member’ rights and I call on Picturehouse to reinstate the four sacked BECTU reps with immediate effect and to sit down with the union to discuss ways to resolve this long-standing dispute.”

Corbyn offered his comments with Picturehouse cinema workers set to link up with a day of protests on International Women’s Day today (8 March). A demonstration is planned for between 6 and 9pm outside the Picturehouse Central near Piccadilly Circus.

According to the campaign, Picturehouse sacked four BECTU reps at the Ritzy, with the four taking Picturehouse to tribunal for victimisation for trade union activities.

Long-running dispute

The latest protest is a continuation of the long-running dispute between Picturehouse owner Cineworld and its workers, which dates back as far as 2007 when an initial campaign was launched asking for the London Living Wage to be given to workers at London’s Ritzy Cinema in Brixton.

Previous strikes occurred at the BFI London Film Festival, leading to the cancellation of screenings.

In November, a collective of high-profile UK film industry figures including Rebecca O’Brien and Sarah Gavron called for a resolution to the ongoing dispute.

Picturehouse told Screen they are “proud to offer some of the best pay and benefits in the industry”.

They said: “Picturehouse offers some of the best pay and benefits in the industry. In London we pay the equivalent of £9.92 per hour for our Front-of-House staff, and many staff earn significantly more. This is considerably higher than the National Minimum Wage of £7.50 per hour. In addition, we offer bonuses, paid holidays, statutory sick and maternity pay, and a range of other competitive benefits. Unlike many in the industry, we also offer our staff paid breaks.”

“These rates apply to staff at all our London cinemas except the Ritzy. Unfortunately, Staff at the Ritzy are represented by BECTU who have refused to withdraw strike action and enter pay negotiations. 

“Today’s strike is backed by just a small minority of staff. And beside the Ritzy, all other cinemas will remain open for our customers.

“It’s time for BECTU to end their strike and think about the best interests of their members. It is irresponsible and unnecessary for BECTU to continue this dispute when we reached a pay agreement with the rest of our staff in September last year.”

Other public figures to have shown support for the strike include Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, Ken Loach, Sir Patrick Stewart, Richard Curtis, Danny Boyle, Natalie Dormer and Caitlin Moran.

Read more: What the Picturehouse pay dispute means for the UK exhibition industry