Ritzy – low-paid workers strike again

AFTER A one-day strike on 26 May, staff at Ritzy cinema in Brixton struck again on 1 June. A lively picket of over 30 workers turned out displaying banners, pounding drums and discussing their strike with passing members of the public. Shop steward Jackie Brethold of the union BECTU spoke to Neil Cafferky.

NC: What are the key issues in this dispute?

JB: Staff are paid £5.35 an hour, the national minimum wage. In London you can’t live on the minimum wage. The Poverty Wage in London is £6.25. Cityscreen rejected raising our pay to the Poverty Wage in negotiations.

NC: What has been the workers’ response?

JB: They are really solid behind the strike. There are just under 60 members of staff, 55 are BECTU members. Out of 52 ballots sent out, 41 came back. All were for strike action.

No one here wants to go on strike. This is the first time a lot of people have participated in this kind of action. When we decided to strike we also decided we wouldn’t let Cityscreen win by making us feel unhappy so the picket is as vibrant as we can make it.

NC: How has the public reacted to the picket?

JB: Generally they have been incredibly positive. A lot of people are shocked because they frequent the Ritzy and were unaware of the situation. The company has this image as being a liberal, human rights-watching, fair trade coffee-selling outfit but that is built on the backs of people under the poverty line.

NC: Do you think other low-paid workers should follow your example and take strike action?

JB: I think this strike is a wake-up call to the government that companies like Cityscreen are legally allowed to pay such low wages.