More than 240 UK workers who were let go this week by exhibition giant Cineworld have written to group CEO Mooky Greidinger calling for the exhibitor to rethink this week’s mass redundancies in response to the coronavirus. Scroll down for the letter in full.
The workers “condemn” Cineworld’s decision to cut a vast number of UK staff, a decision they say will see them struggle to afford “essentials such as housing, electricity, gas and food.”
“We call on Cineworld to treat us with dignity and respect during this crisis and ask that you reconsider your position on payment for the duration of closure, and enter into consultation and negotiation with staff, who are ready to speak to you…Our demand is simply that you reinstate all staff who have been made redundant and negotiate with staff on how to ensure that no Cineworld employee is left in a financially precarious situation during the period of closure.”
The letter also calls on Cineworld to re-hire staff in light of the UK government’s unprecedented decision on Friday to pay part of the salaries of some workers at squeezed businesses. The measures don’t extend to freelancers and the self-employed, however.
Cineworld workers we have spoken to estimate that thousands of UK staff have been impacted by the job losses. Many are on zero hours contracts, low pay salaries or part-time contracts. A private Facebook group set up by former workers has 725 members in two days.
Cineworld closed all of its 125 sites (including the Picturehouse cinemas) in the UK this week following the 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.
Earlier today, Member of Scottish Parliament James Kelly also wrote to Greidinger in support of the Cineworld staff. He said, “While I recognize the COVID-19 outbreak will have an acute impact on the cinema industry, it is completely unacceptable to make hard-working staff pay the price for this pandemic – especially at an organization as profitable and successful as Cineworld.”
In a statement, Cineworld said, “We have offered employees with more than three years’ service partial payments until we are able to re-open our cinemas. Anyone who accepts this offer can also take paid work outside of our company during the closure and they will be awarded a loyalty bonus once Cineworld has re-opened. We are also offering those employees the option of voluntary redundancy. We recognize the challenges facing our employees, and Cineworld is currently working to establish a hardship fund with more details to follow.”
The chain, which is the world’s second biggest, employs tens of thousands of staff worldwide and posted global revenue of $4.4BN last year. Cineworld owns the Regal circuit in the U.S.
We have reached out to the chain for further comment.
Friday 20th March 2020
Dear Mr Greidinger,
We are writing to you today to express our concerns over the way the closure of all of the UK Cineworld and Picturehouse sites has been handled in regard to staff redundancy and payment during the period of closure.
We are aware that we are dealing with an unprecedented crisis globally as we face the Covid-19 pandemic and understand the serious implications this is having on our industry. Following Boris Johnson’s calls for the public to avoid social spaces we fully support the temporary closure of Cineworld and Picturehouse sites to prevent the spread of the disease to staff and customers alike.
Yesterday we were informed that we would not be allocated any more shifts from the 20th of March 2020, and that many of us would be made redundant. Staff with over three years’ service are to be retained with 40% of their salary or average pay, staff from 18 months upwards will have employment terminated immediately with pay in lieu of notice and statutory redundancy where entitled and staff employed for less than 18 months will be kept on without any sort of pay during the period of closure.
We collectively condemn this decision and are now being placed in a position of financial insecurity indefinitely while this global crisis continues to unfold. For many of us, this loss of income will lead us to be unable to afford essentials such as housing, electricity, gas and food. We call on Cineworld to treat us with dignity and respect during this crisis and ask that you reconsider your position on payment for the duration of closure, and enter into consultation and negotiation with staff, who are ready to speak to you.
This evening, the government has announced that it will help to pay people’s wages up to £2500 a month for those still employed by a company but not being used due to closures. There is no limit on the funds available to protect staff from unemployment during this crisis. These measures would protect our jobs and the company itself. We urge you to reinstate all staff who have been made redundant and make use of these funds to protect our income. We have stood by Cineworld and it is now up to you to stand by us.
We are a group of Cineworld and Picturehouse employees stretching the entirety of the UK and are being supported by Bectu and other trade unions. Our demand is simply that you reinstate all staff who have been made redundant and negotiate with staff on how to ensure that no Cineworld employee is left in a financially precarious situation during the period of closure. We request that you respond to this letter no later than the end of Sunday, 22nd March, failing which we will take further action. We look forward to discussing this with you.
Cineworld & Picturehouse staff