Brixton Ritzy staff in pay dispute for London Living Wage with Picturehouse Cinemas

Discussion in 'Brixton' started by editor, Mar 12, 2014.

  1. Strangerdanger

    Strangerdanger Well-Known Member

    Good on them!

    When I moved to Brixton recently, one of of the first things I did was buy a Ritzy membership. I was really excited after hearing lots of good things about the cinema, and cafe, and wanted to be a part of the community, blah blah blah - so it was REALLY disappointing to hear about this dispute as the LLW is something I feel very passionate about.

    I for one won't be renewing my membership should they not settle this - even though I do enjoy the Ritzy for a quick drink or coffee (I have to say the actual screens left me underwhelmed, as someone who is vertically challenged and has issues seeing over the seat in front -- and also there was one incident when a woman with a face like a cat's bottom asked my fiancee to stop eating his popcorn because it was loud, wtf?).

    I refuse to give my money to these companies unless unavoidable (See also: Sports Direct and zero hour contracts).
    Gramsci, Onket and Manter like this.
  2. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    Is there a cinema nearby which does already guarantee to pay everyone LLW or will you simply stop going to the cinema? (Curzon pay LLW but a trip to Soho will cost an extra £8.65 incl. £4.25 extra ticket and booking cost plus £4.40 return off peak tube fare) As you are passionate about LLW, could you share which other local services / shops / pubs / restaurants you currently boycott on account of failing to pay LLW to all employees and which LLW paying businesses you have taken your custom to as a result? (I'm thinking of businesses which it would truly inconvenience you to boycott.) Did Barratt pay everyone LLW to work on the building you live in (they are one of the worst offenders according to the numbers at the end of this - rather good - 2011 article bout Lush and LLW)? And the people who maintain your building / provide security?

    I think it is admirable when people boycott because of something they strongly believe in but I guess what I'm asking is, what is particularly shocking about Ritzy which makes it stand out from other businesses in relation to LLW and makes them so boycott worthy? The Ritzy tends to employ better educated, more self empowered and consequently less exploitable staff than many other businesses. They have the freedom to pick such people because it really is a pretty comfortable, untaxing and flexible working environment compared to many service / retail businesses. That's not to say they should or should not earn LLW. It just feels a bit like that people are only particularly shocked by Ritzy because it is other young media savvy "people like them".

    [Re: your popcorn experience: Some people are remarkably noisy eaters and play their gargantuan tubs like a maracas. I'm afraid that, depending on the nature of the film, I might well ask your finacee to stop rattling around in his popcorn and noisily munching. Not a problem if it's a highly charged explosion ridden romp fest but totally inappropriate for a quieter thoughtful or suspenseful film. I would quite likely empty it in his lap if he carried on. Sorry.]
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  3. Manter

    Manter Lunch Mob

    I think part of it (for me, not speaking for anyone else) is the hypocrisy of it. Barratt are shits, everyone knows they are shits and -guess what!- they have shitty employment policies*. For an entertainment company that has lots of right-on lefty (see what I did there?!) films and policies- fairtrade this, organic that- to stiff their staff over such a small amount of money feels sordid.... But also like something that can be changed. If pushed hard enough, can they be tipped towards decent behaviour? They aren't a big blank faceless mindless corporate, iyswim

    *not saying it's right, obviously
    muscovyduck, Smick, Gramsci and 4 others like this.
  4. editor

    editor hiraethified

    Staff at a hugely profitable business should be paid a decent wage regardless of how hard or easy the job appears to people who have never worked there. When that business sells itself on its left-leaning human rights credentials, then not paying a living wage seems even more untenable.
    muscovyduck, Gramsci, Greebo and 3 others like this.
  5. tompound

    tompound Well-Known Member

    I wrote a piece on this over the weekend which makes a similar point to what Manter is saying, basically Picturehouses benefit from the idea that the Ritzy is 'local' and have brilliant staff but the last thing they want to do is pay them properly.

    For the reasons Rushy gives above I don't think a boycott is effective. However personally I am going to cancel my membership if this continues as I don't think Picturehouse deserve this loyalty.
    muscovyduck, Greebo, Gramsci and 5 others like this.
  6. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    Yes, it is easy to forget it is a commercial cinema - but it is a commercial cinema. It has to operate within the same commercial constrains as any other commercial cinema. I've always considered it to have a strong arthouse side and generally arthouse cinema is left leaning leaning but I've never been under the impression that it is anything but a commercial business. I don't think they are terribly more or less hypocritical than plenty of other businesses. Consider The Prince Albert which doesn't pay all its staff LLW. It's part of a big corporate which openly claims to run its business in an ethical and responsible manner. It's a legendary pub on one of the best known streets in Brixton - London even. It likes to be seen to be a local and likes to benefit from its left leaning alternative image. Why is that so different? Why is it not being boycotted? Why is Ritzy being treated as a pariah whilst The Albert is so warmly embraced. It's so bloody arbitrary.
  7. Onket

    Onket Je suis [CONTENT REMOVED]

    I'm sure people would support a strike or demo from the staff employed by The Albert, as much as The Ritzy.
  8. editor

    editor hiraethified

    If the staff at the Albert went on strike, I'd support them 100%, and if a boycott was called I'd go elsewhere. Full stop, no question.

    I imagine it would be the same story for all the regulars too, although I think this is a specious comparison anyway.
  9. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    Which brings me back to the fact that the Ritzy staff are generally better educated, more self empowered and consequently less exploitable staff than many other businesses (no that's not a dig at Albert staff, I'm quoting from my previous post). Do you sit happily drinking in a pub which you know "exploits" its staff through low pay just because they are not complaining about it? Why does their not complaining about it make it ok?
    Pinggoombah likes this.
  10. editor

    editor hiraethified

    Exactly why are the staff at the Ritzy "generally better educated, more self empowered and....less exploitable" than staff at the Albert, Dogstar, Prince of Wales or anywhere else? If you knew them, you'd know that they're quite interchangeable.

    Gramsci likes this.
  11. Onket

    Onket Je suis [CONTENT REMOVED]

    Has anyone said it's ok?
  12. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    Have I said anyone said it's ok?
  13. Onket

    Onket Je suis [CONTENT REMOVED]

    cesare and Gramsci like this.
  14. Manter

    Manter Lunch Mob

    It is arbitrary. Agree. And there must be some very grumpy cinema managers who feel they are being picked on.... But it has to be arbitrary. If you want to boycott everyone right now with bad employment practices you spend half your time researching, descend into navel gazing about which are worst, who/what to prioritise, may miss organisations.... Plus action may be diluted- you become part of a small group of ignorable extremists.

    Whereas by supporting the Ritzy staff (not treating the Ritzy as a pariah) you may get one injustice overturned. And the bar staff from the Albert may look up from the pumps, out of the window and think 'you know what? We can do that too'- that, to me, is powerful potential.
  15. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    I didn't say they were - I said in both my posts "than many other businesses". Particularly for your benefit, I also added the clarification that I was quoting from an earlier post which was not about the Albert. Lower paid workers are generally a lot less self empowered - shelf stackers, till operators, street sweepers, waiters, waitresses, shop floor staff, cleaners - and yes many pub workers. For low paid jobs the Ritzy attracts a lot of people form educated and particularly artsy educated backgrounds - this is empowering. I'm sure you understand that.
  16. editor

    editor hiraethified

    Yep. For what it's worth, the landlord at the Albert has argued strongly with the brewery that his staff be paid the LLW for many of the reasons highlighted in Dexter Deadwood's excellent piece for BBuzz. Sadly, the powerplay of small cog in a big machine comes into play here.

    The Ritzy's unique heritage and left leaning ethos certainly form part of its commercial identity, and its current trumpeting of human rights makes it a more suitable target than most, so I totally support what the staff are doing. And if they're successful, let's hope it spreads to other jobs and businesses.
  17. Strangerdanger

    Strangerdanger Well-Known Member

    I don't google every single company I use looking for the offenders, but I am passionate about it. I work for a company who doesn't pay all of its staff the LLW, and that is actually a part of the reason I am looking for a new job. I think its shocking and have complained about it many times when asked for feedback. When these issues are brought to my attention, if I can, I vote with my money, as I stated above in the case of Sports Direct. As a regular gym goer and footie player, I used to spend a lot of money there, but I refuse to shop there anymore. Yeah, it means I recently spent an eye watering amount on a sports bra, and Ive needed a new pair of shin pads for the last 6 months, but eventually when I pull my finger out I will just pay more for it elsewhere. I've also stopped going to starbucks when the whole tax story broke, and I drink a latte every day. Im not saying I'm making a difference, Im just saying if I'm aware, I really try not to support these companies and the Ritzy now falls under this category. I have netflix and wine at my place, its not hard at all to stay in.

    That being said, its nigh on impossible to boycott every single place that doesnt pay the LLW, what am I to do ask everyone their salary before I make purchases? Which is why I keep stressing when I'm aware, and can, I really try not to patronise such companies. Which brings me to Barratt Homes, when we found this flat I couldn't believe my luck that we were in the right place at the right time. Im not aware of Barratt ever being called out for refusing to pay a LLW, in fact I was happy to see in the info they sent around that both concierges are payed more than the LLW. That article you linked I'm sure is referring to Barratts, the shoe shop, not developers. To be honest though, that is an instance where it probably wouldn't have made a difference, because getting on the property ladder in this city is so difficult, I could not have passed up the chance. If you think that point takes away from my other efforts, then you're entitled to your opinion, but I would disagree.

    Slightly off topic, my fiancee was eating his popcorn as quietly as you could possibly eat popcorn! What she complained about was the crunching of the popcorn as he chewed (mouth closed, no chomping) - Im sorry, how do you eat popcorn without chewing? She also complained before the film even started, which was why it was quiet enough to hear it, and threw me dirty looks as I ate my sweets quietly.
  18. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    To make it clear my view is that the LLW should be the minimum wage in London. Whatever the job.

    I have also given the reason also why if the LW and LLW were made minimum wage nationally this would not harm the economy in previous response to one of your posts.

    So if the LLW and LW were brought in across all workplaces in the country for all workers would that be ok by you?
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
    Dexter Deadwood and editor like this.
  19. editor

    editor hiraethified

    With all the fucking money being made in the UK and the immense profits trousered by fat corporates I find it nothing short of incredible that anyone could argue against workers being paid the absolute basic minimum wage to survive.
  20. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    Good article. Good to see Brixton£ taking a view on this dispute.

    I take issue, however, with saying that this is corporate business where the bottom line is numbers. There are plenty of small business who do not pay LW either. For them the bottom line is numbers. As they say they cannot afford it. Whole issue of LW is that the way the economy works there has been tendency to drive wages down in jobs that are classified as low skilled.

    I do not think boycott is effective or desirable. Better to email Picturehouse as I think Ritzy workers suggest about the LLW for its workers.
    Dexter Deadwood, Greebo and editor like this.
  21. Gramsci

    Gramsci Well-Known Member

    Article in Guardian today about low pay.

    What he is saying is that low pay is linked to deeper inequalities of wealth that become entrenched in capitalist economies.

    He also makes interesting comment that in a society like ours there are still old landed estates that entrench inequality. So land ownership is an issue.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2014
  22. leanderman

    leanderman Street Party: July 2

    Read a review of that book somewhere else. Interesting stuff.
    Dexter Deadwood, Greebo and Gramsci like this.
  23. Winot

    Winot I wholeheartedley agree with your viewpoint

    Twice in the Observer. He's the latest pin-up boy of the soft left.
    ska invita likes this.
  24. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    I have reservations about saying yes to making it compulsory tomorrow across the whole country because of the questions I have already asked - but that is also not a no. I'm not as certain as you: a) whether the benefit will be felt by those who need it most and b) what the knock on effect would be and who that would affect the most. I think that maybe our main differences are that you would be more satisfied with a largely symbolic change at this stage - whereas I would not, particularly as I have concerns it would backfire if poorly or bluntly implemented.

    I don't think either of us disagree that we would welcome benefits being replaced by companies paying full rather than subsidised wages. LLW would hopefully go a long way towards achieving that. My initial concern about that causing a sudden leap in wages seems to be fairly strongly mitigated for some by resultant decreases in benefits although I don't think any of us really know by how much and for how many. But then it raises the question for me, are the right people going to benefit? Yes it's a triumph that every penny of a person's salary is paid by the company - but wasn't the original aim to make the lowest paid better off? You conceded there is truth in that and said it is largely symbolic and just a first step - well, what's the next one?

    Regarding your reference to QE not causing inflation - I don't know that I agree that QE hasn't set the ground for it. QE was supposed to trickle funds down but banks and large corporates basically mended their balance sheets cheaply and sat and waited for things to start looking up - i.e. they held on to it rather than distribute it. As soon as things started to look a little better the banks started throwing money at carefully selected members of the public - and making huge margins on their lending. Demand is at the root of housing prices but demand is dependent on the availability of finance - and there is more and more available and it is getting cheaper and cheaper - and this has fuelled house prices hugely which is rippling across the country. Companies are also sat on cash and busting to expand - this will cause wages inflation, most significantly amongst the more skilled to begin with. BoE is going to struggle to put up rates because of the huge amounts of private borrowing and when they do, the banks will be able to cushion it by reducing their margins which are still so high above where they were before. Inflation has been down lately but the £ has also strengthened which will have helped that a lot. Oil and fuel also seem to be down helping further. I (no more or less amateurishly than you) predict inflation will bite in the next 18 months and this will largely be caused by the sudden unleashing of all the capital built up by corporates as they rush to cash in on the recovery, accompanied by a lack of effective controls. I think a sudden leap in wages of those more likely to dispose of them than save them could have a similar effect, nullifying the increase and making things even harder for those out of work. The thing is, I don't know and you don't know. I'd have thought a slower transition would help - e.g. close the gap between minimum and living by 10% a year. I was going to suggest putting the burden on large corporates first, but then that would make it hard for small businesses to recruit talent competitively - better therefore to ease it in for everyone. Like it or not - many companies a have business models based on high volume, low % profits - because of constant consumer demand for the cheapest goods - so would be very susceptible to a sudden change . The aim is not to put them out of business but to change practices (as well as consumer expectations about price). A more gradual application would assist this.

    I don't really disagree with any of the research about how paying people more benefits the company although several of the listed advantages are based on the advantage of paying higher wages than other companies and would not exist if everyone paid LLW. I question the meaningfulness of some of the stats under the "good for the individual" heading. The lowest I have ever paid anyone was £7/hr and that was back in 2001. LLW didn't reach that level until five years later - minimum wage still hasn't. That was for unskilled building labour but guys were able to earn more pretty quickly as they got to know the ropes and made themselves more and more useful. However, paying good money meant you could be quite picky and those who didn't work out lost their jobs rather than staying on the starting wage. It was not uncommon. I don't know what work they got after leaving me but I really think many employers would have found an alternative to having to employ them rather than pay higher rates. I do wonder where these people would fit in as individuals are expected to deliver more. Relocatable jobs have been relocated as we agreed. More and more relatively unskilled are jobs are being replaced - just look at DIY shop scanning. You even mentioned staff-less easy cinemas above. A sudden increase in many wage bills will only accelerate this - where will all the LLW jobs come from?

    I would like people to be better off in general. It would be easy for me to say - yeah pay everyone the LLW tomorrow. I'm just not convinced economics are that simple. Equating "I'm not sure it will work as you expect" with wanting to deny people a fair living is nonsense (not saying you are personally doing that).
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2014
  25. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

    I think there are only a small number of landed estates, but the entrenchment through inheritance problem is not limited to land - mineral rights, company stocks, IP, artworks. I find myself veering towards favouring more redistribution through inheritance tax. But the practicalities do look quite horrendous, not least how do you stop non geospecific wealth being removed from the country. And not to mention overcoming the natural desire of parents to leave a legacy for their kids and the general mistrust of the State. Also, maybe non shareholder organisations such as the Church should have a forced "inheritance audit" every 50yrs to ensure they cannot just continue accumulating (less so since the 80s!). I think that having never inherited anything and having no children yet makes this seem more palatable.
    muscovyduck likes this.
  26. co-op

    co-op Free the rhubarb crumble!

    This ^^ quote from the Ritzy management was posted by someone earlier.

    Apologies if this point has already been made but there's an important detail here which should be understood which is that the Living Wage - both nationally and in London - assumes full-take up of in-work benefits is being carried out by workers on the wage. In other words, the calculation that makes the wage "liveable" assumes you get tax credits etc. But thanks to the coalition's new rules on tax credits, you are not eligible for TCs unless you are working 30 hours a week*. It's a real problem for people working part time or on variable contracts or zero hours of course and even though take-up of TCs has always been low (considering what a decent benefit it has been) now, many people simply don't qualify and that means the "living wage" actually isn't a living wage, even on its own terms. If management want to help their workers they should be writing contracts that maximise access to TCs., not unilaterally cutting them to a point where no one can et TCs.

    *lots of exceptions to this if you have children or are disabled etc etc, but even here the minimum is never below 16 hours a week, ie 25% of Ritzy staff will be excluded.
    Dexter Deadwood likes this.
  27. leanderman

    leanderman Street Party: July 2

    Inheritance tax is a joke because it is so easily avoidable.

    One idea would be to scrap all the trusts and dodges and levy it through income tax on heirs.
    muscovyduck likes this.
  28. Rushy

    Rushy AKA some / certain posters

  29. editor

    editor hiraethified

    ska invita, Greebo, Gramsci and 3 others like this.
  30. friendofdorothy

    friendofdorothy it is so much worse than Thatcherism now

    A lot of talk about boycotting the Ritzy on this thread - surely we should only do this if the staff call for it.
    Gramsci and editor like this.

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