EXCLUSIVE: Following a public backlash and the UK government’s pledge to financially support businesses impacted by the coronavirus, Cineworld has backtracked on widespread staff redundancies and now promised that all of its workers paid by the hour will be offered the government-backed furlough option.
In a letter sent to Cineworld and Picturehouse staff last night and seen by Deadline, Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger said:
Thank you for your continued patience while we have been waiting for further guidance from Government regarding the people measures.
I know it is a very worrying time for many, and for this reason I would like to share with you the following –
All of our hourly paid people across Cineworld and Picturehouse will be offered the Furloughed option. There is still much unknown detail as we wait further guidance from Government. And so we will be in touch with further updates, including how pay is calculated under the Government scheme. Your salary will be paid in the usual way in March.
For now, I hope this brings peace of mind.
Also, as noted before, if you were previously given a deadline by which time you needed to reply to us, you can now ignore this and as I say, I will be in touch again as soon as we know more.
Have a restful evening, Mooky.”
While there remains uncertainty over what this concretely means for other staff and redundancies, the news has been welcomed by workers we have spoken to as a positive first step and one likely to benefit hundreds, if not thousands, of employees.
As we revealed last week, hundreds of UK workers who were made redundant by the exhibition giant wrote to group CEO Greidinger calling for the exhibitor to reinstate staff, especially in light of the government’s new plans to help companies continue to pay employees during the crisis.
Cineworld closed all of its 125 sites (including the Picturehouse cinemas) in the UK 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.
Many Cineworld workers are on zero hours contracts, low pay salaries or part-time contracts. A private Facebook group set up by former workers has drawn 1200 members in one week.
The rapid terminations prompted a backlash on social media and comments from multiple MPs, including prominent Labour politicians Yvette Cooper and Angela Rayner.
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. It is one of, if not the, biggest film sector employers in the UK, and it also owns the Regal circuit in the U.S.
A spokesperson for Cineworld told us today, “We were very pleased when the government announced its financial scheme to support companies like ours. This scheme will allow us to do what we couldn’t do before, which is to offer all our employees who are unable to work while our cinemas are closed, to be furloughed and therefore still paid during this time, as well as keeping their jobs for the future. The government package was a real game changer and we wait for clarification regarding the details. The well-being of our employees has always been a top priority for Cineworld and the company will continue to support them as much as possible.”
Fellow UK cinema chains Odeon and Empire have also been under the spotlight at this time. Odeon is understood to have applied to the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but similarly it is unclear how that will impact the large number of workers there on casual contracts.