A group of protesters from UK cinema Picturehouse were involved in a scrum with security this evening attempting to get on the red carpet at the London Film Festival, which is opening tonight with the world premiere of Andy Serkis’ Breathe. It’s the latest in a long row between employees at the UK cinema chain and the exhibitor over recognizing their union and adopting the London Living Wage and other benefits.
About 20 picketers holding signs were at the Odeon in Leicester Square, site of the premiere of the movie starring Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy.
Protesters told Deadline that Picturehouse — a division of the Cineworld, the second-largest cinema business in Europe — has refused to acknowledge their union (BECTU) and will not meet with them over the LLW, a non-compulsory hourly rate currently set at £9.75.
According to the Guardian, Picturehouse has threatened to fire workers who participate in any strike. One protester told Deadline that four people have already been fired ahead of a planned action beginning tomorrow, the first full day of the London-set festival which screens many of its films at Picturehouse venues.
At a Change.org petition page, organizers are asking Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger to agree to recognize the union.
“Staff at Hackney, Picturehouse Central, Crouch End, Brighton Duke of York’s and Oxford have all submitted petitions for BECTU union recognition, but Cineworld continue to refuse the request,” it reads. “In 2017, the company will open West Norwood Library Picturehouse and won’t be adhering to Lambeth Council Policy wages.”
The festival begins its first full day tomorrow and runs through October 15.