Deadline has seen correspondence sent yesterday to workers at Cineworld cinemas and its indie chain Picturehouse, many of whom are on zero hour contracts, that their employment had been terminated with immediate effect.
“With the closure of all our cinemas in the UK, we need to inform you that as part of our measures to try to save the business given the serious difficulties that it is currently facing in light of the coronavirus pandemic, we will not be allocating you with any further shifts from 20th March 2020. You will be paid in full up to and including 19th March 2020,” the notice read.
The exact number of lay-offs is unknown at this time. Cineworld sent us a statement that did not confirm the layoffs but admitted it was “facing an incredibly challenging time”.
Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger told Deadline today, “We took the necessary measures to keep standing strong on solid ground and to do our best to keep a level of comfort for the employees.”
UK workers’ union Bectu called the move “devastating news”.
Cineworld closed all of its venues on March 17 after the UK government’s advice for people to avoid public venues due to the spread of COVID-19. The day before, the company’s share price hit an all-time low. It has rebounded to a degree since but still remains around 74% down since January.
The exhibitor’s global revenue in 2019 was $4.4BN.
The note from Cineworld to its employees says they will receive “notice pay as detailed in your contract (or based on your average hours, if appropriate) plus any outstanding holiday pay”. Employees who have been with the company for more than two years will also receive a statutory redundancy payment.
“When we are able to reopen, we sincerely hope you wish to return to us – we value your contribution and support you have given to our business and therefore, we would like to keep in contact with you. This contact will simply inform you of the company’s re-opening plans,” it read.
Picturehouse workers received a similar notice detailing the same financial information.
“To let people go, at a time like this, when they have no other possibility of getting a job will only further add to their anguish in the current climate,” said Bectu head Philippa Childs. “We are urging all employers to avoid letting staff go as there are still further updates to come from government on support packages for individuals and their salaries. This is not the time to take advantage of the situation and prepare for turning a profit once thing starts to improve.”
Cineworld also owns U.S. cinema co Regal, no word yet on if staff at the American chain could be affected. It also owns chains in Eastern Europe and Israel. In total, it operates 790 sites and 9,518 screens in 10 countries, and employees 37,482 people.
The company is in the process of acquiring Canadian exhibitor Cineplex for $2.1BN. This week, Bloomberg reported that Bluebell Capital Partners, a London-based fund that owns a stake in Cinepelx, is urging for the deal to be called off due to the current financial situation.