UEA’s students’ union will boycott Picturehouse Cinemas, following a motion raised at Union Council that proposed showing solidarity with striking workers.
Motion 2147 Night of the Living Wage: Boycott Picturehouse resolved to support strikers of the cinema, who have been campaigning for a living wage for a number of years in London.
Picturehouse workers say the cinema company had agreed to pay them the London living wage, determined by the London Living Wage Foundation, of £9.75 an hour.
The boycott will involve the students’ union writing to Picturehouse and its owner Cineworld telling them they will not be allowed to attend freshers’ fairs or participate in other union activities “until the dispute is over”.
The motion was proposed by SU Mature Students Officer Lewis Martin, who urged students to support the workers involved in the strike.
SU Campaigns and Democracy Officer Jack Robinson said: “The SU Council agreed a range of student focussed policies at its last meeting which will see action taken on student mental health, starting at University, postgraduates that teach and students working for Picturehouse.
“The SU has a partnership in place with the GMB Trade Union to secure and promote rights for student workers- and given the number of students Picturehouse employ it’s important for us to help them secure the Living Wage, union recognition, sick pay and other rights that students who work at the SU get automatically”
Councillors voted to pass the motion by 33 votes to 28. 11 councillors abstained.
Jack Annand, union council representative for Business Society, said he voted against the motion as he did not feel the issue was “something that union council should be concerning itself with”.
He said: “In the end I voted against because I don’t think the student union has a right to intervene in issues outside of campus life, we should be dedicating our efforts and resources towards policies that actually make a difference on campus.”
Yannis Gourtsoyannis, an NHS campaigner leading the junior doctors’ strike and a member of activist group Momentum, told The New Statesman the dispute was “a direct result of government policy”.
They said: “The best, and most crucial weapon against these plans is sustained and concerted industrial action.”
A spokesperson for Picturehouse Cinemas told Concrete they were disappointed by workers on strike.
They said: “In September 2017 Picturehouse Cinemas negotiated a pay increase with its staff. Within this agreement front of house staff in London (except the Ritzy) now receive £9.30ph, equivalent to £9.92ph when working an 8-hour shift as we’re one of the few cinema companies who choose to pay for breaks. This was agreed via a majority vote with recognised staff union The Forum.
They said they also pay statutory maternity, sick and holiday pay.
Picturehouse are proud to be one of the highest paying companies in the cinema industry, we are therefore disappointed that a small proportion of our staff have chosen to strike.
Staff in our cinemas outside of London receive £8.36 per hour equivalent to £8.92 if working an 8 hour shift as breaks are paid. No Picturehouse Cinemas outside of London are choosing to strike.”
The government minimum is £7.50 for workers over the age of 25, in London.