Cinema workers are on strike today – and have won some high-profile backing

Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has voiced his support for striking cinema workers as the longest-running dispute in history of British cinema held a special day of action on International Women's Day (IWD).

Picturehouse Cinema workers across London decided to strike on IWD to highlight how many of their demands would fundamentally support the group’s female staff.

Members of the entertainment workers’ trade union BECTU from five of the capital’s cinemas have been waging a 17-month-long campaign against their employer over a living wage, company sick pay, parental pay, and pay rises for certain members of staff.

The workers are also standing in solidarity and calling for the reinstatement of four union reps at Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema, fired allegedly for their union activities.

Corbyn said he stood in “solidarity” with Picturehouse strikers:

“I fully support your campaign to be paid the real Living Wage and to tackle the injustices that you face in your workplace.

“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.”

Addressing the victimisation of the BECTU reps, the Leader of the Opposition said:

“All workers should have the security of a union in their workplace so Labour will make it easier for unions to gain access to workplaces and to gain recognition.

“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 is not the first public figure to support the strike, with a string of celebrities having previously offered their solidarity with the cause, including actors Susan Sarandon and Sir Patrick Stewart, director Ken Loach, and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell.

Cineworld, the parent company of Picturehouse Cinemas, made a cool post-tax profit of £93.8 million in 2016. Yet it is refusing to to pay its London staff the £10.20 per hour defined by the Living Wage Foundation as the minimum necessary to make do in the capital.

Picturehouse workers have also highlighted that Cineworld is fraught with gender imbalances – from its 80 percent male board of directors, to its nearly eight percent pay gap between men and women workers.

“If our demands were rolled out across the economy it would be women who predominantly benefit, because it is women who suffer the worst pay and conditions no matter which industry you look at,” said striking Crouch End Picturehouse worker Holly Thicknes.

“In the cinema world, everyone rightly talks about Harvey Weinstein and his crimes, but gendered exploitation in the film industry goes far beyond that. As cinema workers, we know that we need a movement that can fight the rich and powerful, who maintain their status through exploiting the most vulnerable groups in our communities.”

A picket will be held outside Soho’s Picturehouse Central on Thursday evening, where hundreds are expected to attend.

Joana Ramiro is a reporter for Left Foot Forward. She can be found on Twitter here

Picture credit: Marc Cowan

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