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The Xtra Diary: As cinema opens with free-to-watch films, staff are left in the dark

Director Mike Leigh is backing cinema staff in their campaign for a living wage

Published: 9 May, 2014

THE arthouse cinema chain Curzon continues to grow with their latest offering popping up in Victoria last week. 

The £3million cinema opened with an archive of free-to-watch films and screens that host bespoke chairs with extra legroom and even “love seats” for couples to share. But the company’s investment has received a frosty reception from cinema staff who believe the money should have, instead, been spent on bumping up wages to be in line with the London Living Wage (LLW) currently standing at £8.80 per hour. Staff spent 12 months fighting for union recognition and better pay last year, with support from film-makers Ken Loach and Mike Leigh. 

When they were finally granted their wish and media union Bectu reached an agreement with Curzon bosses, the company’s chief executive Philip Knatchbull said they would begin paying the LLW “as soon as we are able to do so without it tipping the company from its current break-even position into loss-making”.

But as the Victoria venue opened, the Curzon Workers Movement wrote: “Despite all our campaigning for London Living Wage we’ve done over the past year, our CEO Philip Knatchbull, has decided to invest in opening new cinemas instead of paying his employees a fair wage. Despite empty promises made over the past few months to pay LLW when the company makes enough money there is still no set plan or timescale in place to make this happen.”

The message was sent to journalists attending the grand opening of the cinema and pleaded: “If you or any of your colleagues are attending the opening of Curzon Victoria, we sincerely hope you enjoy your evening. All we ask is that you will keep in mind our battle for Living Wage and continue to support us and many more low-paid workers across the country.”

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