Consultative ballot results

Yesterday the ballot to determine whether BECTU members at The Ritzy would accept or reject the offer that was achieved by our negotiating team at ACAS last month closed.

BECTU members at The Ritzy have voted by a slim majority to reject the offer.

We would like to make clear that this should not be interpreted as a sign that we are in any sense divided. Nor does it indicate that a large minority of our members viewed this as a good deal that is worth accepting.

Over the last four weeks we have discussed the offer and all the implications of accepting or rejecting it in full at two full BECTU members’ meetings and during lengthy discussion via email and face to face amongst ourselves.

The clear message from these discussions was that our members viewed the offer with considerable disappointment and felt that it fell too far short of the London Living Wage and those who expressed the intention to accept the offer did so purely for practical reasons. Many had doubts even after they had voted to accept the offer that they might have done the wrong thing.

The other clear message that came from the discussions was that we remained united and determined to stick together as a collective and respect the democratic will of the majority, whatever that might be. We stand absolutely by that collective spirit that has already achieved so much during this campaign. Unity is Strength!

The London Living Wage is the absolute minimum a person needs to have a basic, decent standard of living in this city. In being unwilling to accept an unreasonable compromise that would keep them too far below this level for too long our members have acted entirely reasonably.

We now urge Picturehouse management to address the concerns of our members and come back to the negotiating table with an offer that our members might be able to accept. Failing that, our campaign and industrial action will resume imminently.

In the weeks ahead we will need the backing of our incredible supporters, the local community and other trade unionists more than ever before. Updates will follow on Facebook and Twitter.

An important announcement to our supporters.

On Wednesday our negotiating team, including union reps from the Ritzy and senior BECTU Officials, met with management representatives from the company at ACAS, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service - an independent non-departmental government agency that tries to resolve disputes such as ours.

After nine and a half hours of talks, lasting until 3am, the two sides reached a final offer that represents a significant improvement on any previous offers, though it does not reach the London Living Wage.

The negotiating team took the view that this was the best offer that could be achieved by negotiation and decided to recommend acceptance of the offer to the membership on that basis.

It should be made clear that this does not mean that a deal has been ‘agreed’ as some media outlets have reported. As at every stage of this process, the BECTU members at The Ritzy themselves are the only ones empowered to make that decision and they will do so in the coming weeks through a secret ballot.

We would like to thank our supporters once again for their continued solidarity, we will update you as soon as we can.

With love and solidarity!

Ritzy Strikers

THANK YOU!

We have many people we need to thank for making yesterday such a success. 

Thank you to our incredible union members, whose unity and enthusiasm inspired so many yesterday. Unity is Strength!

Thank you to the wonderful people of Brixton for the phenomenal support and solidarity they showed all day yesterday and for many weeks before.

Thank you to our sisters and brothers at BECTU, both at head office and all the other brilliant branches who came down to support us.

Thank you to all the other trade unionists and union branches who are supporting us. Special thanks to the members and branch officers/reps of Lambeth UNISON for their genuine and practical solidarity and support during our campaign and strike.

Thank you to all at Brixton Buzz for the excellent coverage and great post-strike party last night. And to Brixton Blog for their fantastic reporting and photos, including this great shot. Many thanks also to London Live for their extensive coverage throughout yesterday.

Thanks to all our other supporters, we’re sure we’ve forgotten some names but funnily enough we’re rather tired at the moment. We love you all!

This is just the beginning…

Solidarity!

I know through personal experience that the Ritzy staff are a bunch of cinephiles who love movies, and will be loath to deprive locals of watching them through their strike action. But people have to live and that becomes impossible when they aren’t getting the London Living Wage. The clue is in the name: London. Living. Wage. Picturehouse, times may be hard for cinema operators, but they’re a damn sight harder for cinema staff. Please do the right thing here.
Irvine Welsh - Author of Trainspotting, Filth and Ecstasy

How to support our strike.

Dear supporters! As our first strike date approaches we are busy getting prepared for Friday.

Many many of you have asked how you can support us in any way and here’s some of the ways in which you can help:

• Donate food and drink for the strikers. Anything easy to eat on a picket line would be greatly appreciated! 
• If you’re in a band, play an instrument, are a part of a theatre group, a poet, spoken word artist, hoolahooper, magician, games master, etc. and you would like to come down to the square and play or perform and entertain us and our supporters on Friday then please feel free.
• for either of the above we can be contacted by email at ritzylivingwage@gmail.com
• Support us by boycotting the Ritzy on our strike days, and by encouraging others to do so too.
• email alastair.o@picturehouses.co.uk and lyn.g@picturehouses.co.uk copying corporate@cineworld.co.uk declaring solidarity with Ritzy workers. 
• Withhold your membership renewals until Picturehouse management have offered us a better pay deal.

Do keep inviting your Twitter followers and Facebook friends to follow us, and keep posting about us, and we’ll see you on the picket line.

Solidarity!

Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for themselves and their family an existence worthy of human dignity…
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 23.3
Everyone has the right to a living wage. It is sad and shocking that the Ritzy Cinema, which has an image of being radical and progressive, should fail to do this. It is hypocritical to sell fair trade coffee and then not pay a fair wage. Come on, Picturehouse management, don’t ask the people who work for you to subsidise your business. Pay the London Living Wage!
Ken Loach, Filmmaker

A response to Picturehouse Cinemas’ recent statement

Many of our supporters will have seen a recent statement published on the Picturehouse Cinemas website regarding our current pay dispute with the company.

This statement contains a number of misrepresentations and continues to completely miss the point, as Head Office have throughout the lengthy negotiation process, on the London Living Wage or the daily realities of trying to survive on low pay.

First, the current negotiations cover all staff at the Ritzy, not just front of house or bar staff. This includes: BECTU members who produce the Ritzy’s fantastic brochures telling our customers about upcoming films and events, the original flyers and posters we produce for the cinema, and the wonderful art, decorations and props that regularly transform the Ritzy, most recently into Brixton’s very own version of the Grand Budapest Hotel for the launch of the new Wes Anderson film. It also includes BECTU members who work in the Kitchen, and who have worked hard in recent months to help drive up quality and consistency and helped the Ritzy keep it’s five star hygiene rating. It includes the staff who delight local children every weekend and school holiday with Kid’s club and Toddler time, and BECTU members who make the many fantastic events in the Upstairs bar such a success.

It’s unfortunate that Picturehouses chose to omit this information, we worry that, at best, whoever wrote the public statement is simply unaware of what BECTU members do and don’t realise the breadth of their contribution to the success of the Ritzy or, at worst, they may have been attempting to prey upon some perceived prejudices held by our customers towards people who are ‘merely’ bar staff and ushers. For the record we have absolute faith that the local community hold no such prejudices and see that our members who work busy, often demanding bar and front of house shifts, sometimes as late as 3:30am, are the lifeblood of the entire business and contribute just as much as anyone else.

All of these staff, union members, make The Ritzy what it is.

It is also interesting that Picturehouses have chosen to highlight that the London Living Wage equates to £18,304 a year for a 40 hour week. During our last meeting with them at ACAS on 14th February they specifically and repeatedly tried to argue that the London Living Wage was an odd measure to base our pay claim on because not many of our members work full time. It seems they have no qualms in using the very argument they sought to discredit when seemingly implying that cinema ushers and bar staff are not worthy of £18,304 a year.

Some of our members do indeed work 40 hours per week, and sometimes more. Most of those who don’t have to rely on income from one or two other jobs to make ends meet.

The London Living Wage, currently £8.80 per hour and £18,304 for someone working 40 hours per week, is set by the Living Wage Foundation, and is based upon an independent assessment of living costs in London. It factors in tax credits and benefits and gives an indication of the minimum level of earnings at which people can maintain a basic, decent standard of living. We strongly believe that all workers deserve to be paid at this level as an absolute minimum, we regret that Picturehouses appear to think only certain jobs are worthy of such a basic standard of living.

Contrary to the statement issued by Picturehouses we have never sought to resist fixed contracts for those who want them, we were simply unhappy that Picturehouses sought to introduce contractual changes without any consultation with BECTU. We have a recognition agreement, which covers all matters related to pay, hours and conditions affecting all staff, apart from the general manager. The fact that virtually everyone working at the Ritzy is a BECTU member and the regular members’ meetings we hold should be a clear indication that in rejecting new terms, imposed without consultation through BECTU, we are simply representing what staff want: proper consultation and agreement for any change to conditions of employment.

The assertion that Picturehouses are ‘one of the highest paying employers in Brixton’ is unsupported by any evidence and we would question whether any such evidence exists. As for the assertion that they are also among the highest paying employers in the cinema industry, we would state that employers such as the BFI (which receives public funding) and the BFI IMAX (which is run by the Odeon Group, and does not) pay their staff the London Living Wage and have seen real benefits. As have many other service sector employers. To quote a Guardian article from August last year: ‘Lush stores across London have paid the living wage since 2011. “Regardless of the woes that all us business people will tell you, there’s still no excuse”, says Hilary Jones, ethics director at Lush. “Retail is struggling, we are always complaining about rents and business rates. But that doesn’t mean we have the right not to pay a living wage for people that are working on the shop floor. But also it makes the business easier to run. Our rotoring has become easier, it’s easier to recruit, our staff aren’t as tired because some of them haven’t had to look for second or third jobs, they work harder, they are more enthusiastic…” She admits it was a costly move, adding almost £1m to the wage bill, but believes that money has been made back in increased staff performance and reduced recruitment costs.’

These are precisely the kind of arguments we put to Picturehouses at ACAS in February, they were simply ignored.

Despite Picturehouses’ assertion that they are trying to achieve the London Living Wage, they rejected a possible compromise put forward by our reps to work towards it over the course of almost two years during our most recent negotiations, and failed to offer any indication of when our members might be paid the London Living Wage. We last went on strike for the London Living Wage in 2007, meaning Picturehouses have already had 7 years to work towards it. Under such circumstances we fail to see how the claim that they are ‘trying to negotiate a way to achieve’ the Living Wage is credible.

Picturehouses are now part of the largest chain of cinemas (by number of screens) in Europe, and they are currently hoping to invest about £20 million in new cinemas in the UK, including plans for five new cinemas in London alone. We are simply asking that they invest similarly in their staff, who after all are the very lifeblood of the business.

As ever, we remain open to talking to Picturehouses and trying to resolve this dispute without having to resort to strike action but our members have repeatedly made clear that they are no longer willing to live on such low pay whilst the profits of The Ritzy continue to rise (by 140% in 2012 alone according to accounts submitted to Companies House by Picturehouses).

Unlike Cineworld Group PLC, we do not have a corporate PR department, and we can only hope that our customers will continue to see through the excuses and obfuscations of our employers and support Ritzy staff in our struggle for a Living Wage and a fair share in the incredible success of the business.

Thanks for your continued support!

Ritzy Crew

IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT TO OUR SUPPORTERS!

This update is a bit long but REALLY important so please read it in full and RETWEET and SHARE!

***UPDATED!***

Our BECTU reps met with Picturehouses on 14th February at ACAS. We were unable to reach agreement, with Head Office making a final offer which was nowhere near the London Living Wage. Our members have overwhelmingly rejected the offer and recently voted to strike by 85%.

We love working at the Ritzy Cinema, we love the fantastic films and events we put on, we love our customers and we believe that we have been instrumental in the phenomenal success of the cinema over many years. BECTU members would prefer not to take strike action but we simply cannot afford to continue living on such low wages any longer. We will continue to speak to Head Office and we truly hope picturehouses will see sense and agree to pay us the Living Wage.

Now, we need your help to convince them and to show them that our customers support our struggle so PLEASE:

• DON’T CROSS OUR PICKET LINES!! On Strike days don’t go the The Ritzy, though by all means come and show your support to us outside.

• Follow us on Twitter: @RitzyLivingWage 

• Retweet the tweet or share the status you followed here and share this page.

• Tweet about us regularly, mentioning @picturehouses to let your followers know you support us

• ‘Like’ us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/RitzyLivingWage

• Post positive messages of support for our campaign on the Picturehouse Cinemas Facebook Page (not the Ritzy one, as it gets read by our colleagues who are already BECTU members and support us)

• Post statuses on Facebook supporting us and use the ‘mention’ feature to mention us and Picturehouse Cinemas (you may need to ‘like’ both pages first).

• Email positive messages supporting our campaign to lyn.g@picturehouses.co.uk & alastair.o@picturehouses.co.uk and corporate@cineworld.co.uk and do please cc us too at ritzylivingwage@gmail.com 

• Tell your friends (both Facebook and real life) about our campaign, especially Ritzy customers and locals, and do so regularly.

Thanks to all of you for your support, we will only win this with you by our sides!

Solidarity!
Ritzy Crew