Picturehouse staff strike over pay

Pic: Feride Sahin

Pic: Feride Sahin

Employees at Hackney Picturehouse went on strike outside the cinema on Saturday (October 15) in a row over their request to be paid the London Living Wage.

The Living Wage is calculated by the living costs of employees in London. While the rate used to be £9.15 per hour, it was increased to £9.40 in October 2015.

The workers claim Picturehouse management has refused to pay the wage, and also won’t recognise their chosen trade union, BECTU, or allow sick pay, maternity and paternity pay.

There are currently 22 Picturehouse cinemas across the country.

29 year-old Alisdair Cairns, front-of-house assistant and productions, has been working at Hackney Picturehouse for five years.

Cairns, along with his fellow workers, claims attempts to sit down with Picturehouse management to have a discussion to discuss implementing the London Living Wage have broken down, so workers had opted to strike.

Cairns, who is also a BECTU representative, said: “The reason they refuse to recognise BECTU Hackney is because there is a ‘union’ already set up for Picturehouse workers across all Picturehouse cinemas, which is called the ‘Picturehouse Forum’. However, that was set up by picture house and is entirely funded by them.”

“Although it satisfies the minimum conditions for being a trade union, it really doesn’t function as one. It appears as though it was set up to prevent Picturehouse employees from unionising themselves and so last year we began negotiations through the staff forum who were the only union available to us and this started in September/October of 2015.”

Cairns said Hackney Picturehouse staff had rejected three separate pay offers as they were only willing to accept the London Living Wage amount.

Cairns said: “Hackney staff were already frustrated at how badly the situation were handled by the staff forum, so we began the process of trying to get back to recognition.

“This involved finding out as many staff as we could to get to a point we now have 80 per cent of staff as BECTU members. We made several formal requests for picture house to recognize BECTU and they haven’t done it, despite it being the clear majority at Hackney that wants it.”

Hackney Picturehouse workers said that they were hoping that Picturehouse management would be willing to have a discussion about paying the staff Living Wage following the strike.

Picturehouse management were contacted but had not responded to requests for a comment at the time this story was posted.

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