Cinema workers at Hackney Picturehouse are hoping to conjure up better pay and conditions with a series of strikes to coincide with this week’s launch of the new Harry Potter spinoff film.
The latest walk out is in protest against the cinema chain’s failure to pay the London Living Wage of £9.75 an hour – an amount independently calculated as the basic cost of living in the capital.
The strikes are due to take place between this Friday and Monday next week, with workers at Brixton’s Ritzy Cinema – also owned by Picturehouse – joining them in taking industrial action.
The Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them opens on Friday, and the campaign’s Facebook page encourages supporters to “come to the picket line and bring your best Harry Potter costume”, adding:
“Help us defeat the Dark Lord and his Wage Eaters.”
Sophia Pettit, a Hackney Picturehouse staff member said: “We work hard, work long weeks, and anti-social hours. Despite this, we struggle week to week to pay our bills and rent. We’re asking for basic here – enough to live on and to be valued for our work.”
The latest strike ramps up pressure on Picturehouse and its owner Cineworld, following strikes on 4 November and 15 October.
Front-of-house staff at most Picturehouse cinemas in London get paid £8.77 an hour plus £1 commission for every membership sold or renewed.
But staff at the Ritzy, who have successfully campaigned to be represented by entertainment union Bectu, are on a higher minimum wage. Their front-of-house workers receive a flat rate of £9.10 an hour.
The strikes come as Cineworld revealed an 8.4 per cent rise in UK and Irish revenues. The cinema giant has also posted after tax profits of £81.3 million during 2015.
In a statement given to the Hackney Citizen ahead of October’s strike action, a spokesperson for Hackney Picturehouse said: “Increases in pay for front of house people in Picturehouse Cinemas have far outstripped inflation over the last three years.
“Our staff are hugely important to us, we pay fair wages and have a wide range of benefits within a good working environment.”