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Cinema staff disrupt London Film Festival with noisy protest

PROTESTS disrupted the London Film Festival on Sunday night as Hollywood stars backed strike action over Picturehouse’s refusal to pay cinema staff the living wage.

Workers picketed the closing night of the festival in Leicester Square gaining fresh support from the red carpet with Benedict Cumberbatch posing for a photo and actors Andy Serkis and Andrew Garfield condemning cinema bosses.

The stars lent their support to low-paid workers who have been threatened with the sack for striking.

Spiderman star Mr Garfield called their treatment “awful” and said: “It’s indicative of every aspect of our culture now, this massive social divide.”

Mr Serkis, who voiced Gollum in Lord of the Rings, said: “Of course they need a decent living wage and an equal living wage, they have every right to protest and I would be out there with them if I wasn’t on the red carpet.”

Workers at five Picturehouse cinemas have been in dispute for over a year with members from entertainment union Bectu, who recently voted 92 per cent in favour of strike action.

Bosses backed down after they initially threatened to sack workers who took part in strikes during the London Film Festival.

However the company is refusing to reinstate four trade union representatives who were sacked this year for striking.

Bectu members have taken 10 days of strike action which culminated in Sunday’s noisy protest.

The Picturehouse chain, owned by Cineworld, made a £93.8 million profit in 2016 but is refusing to negotiate with Bectu over a pay rise and other terms and conditions including union recognition.

Obi Saiq, a striker from Hackney Picturehouse, said the campaign was gaining support from the film industry and the wider community.

“But ultimately that support doesn’t solve the fact that we can’t go off sick, or that we’ve got to choose between heating and food. We need to win this strike — and we’ll be back again next year if we have to be.”

Bectu Picturehouse Central rep Andrea Cencioni warned bosses that they were becoming more isolated and were “embarrassed” by the disruption during the film festival.

“They clearly think they can grind us down with threats of mass sackings, but morale among the strikers is now higher than ever. Longer and bigger strikes are planned, but the door to negotiations is always open,” she said.

Picturehouse had not commented at time of going to press.

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