Staff working for the Cineworld cinema chain have launched an online petition urging their bosses to make face coverings mandatory for customers once venues reopen.
In the petition, the Cineworld Action Group – representing employees of the company – criticises management for a lack of clarity ahead of scheduled reopening on 10 July.
The group points to an interview that Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger gave to the Hollywood Reporter indictating that while staff would have daily temperature checks and be required to wear face coverings, customers would not.
This was the first notification staff had had of revised working practices, says the group, which is proposing that “customers are required to wear a mask/face covering to enter Cineworld sites, and should at least have to wear them in high traffic areas (corridors/foyers/concessions), where the most contact is likely to occur.
“These restrictions can be eased in the auditoriums where social distancing can be maintained throughout the duration of a film.”
The group says that as well as protecting the health of fellow customers and staff, such a measure would also help ensure the long-term future of Cineworld. “If numerous staff were to contract the virus, we fear that the company’s operations could be adversely affected, resulting in job losses.”
Greidinger’s interview was given shortly before the Regal chain, which is owned by Cineworld and operates in the US, joined with AMC cinemas – America’s market leader – in saying face coverings would, in fact, be required for customers as well as staff.
Cineworld is the dominant cinema chain in the UK, with a 24% market share – ahead of Odeon and Vue. As well as its multiplexes, Cineworld owns arthouse chain Picturehouse.
Cineworld’s site no longer makes specific mention of face coverings being mandatory for staff; rather it says that “employees will receive specific Covid-19 training and PPE will be provided to employees where the risk assessment has deemed it necessary, in line with government requirements”.
It adds that transparent partitions will be in place at concession stands, where social distancing is not possible.
On Twitter, members of the Cineworld Action Group further allege that no health and safety consultation has been conducted with returning staff and that the only advice they have received has been to expect an update two-to-three days before reopening.
“If exhibitor bosses believe cinemas are so safe,” added one, “head office staff should put their money where their mouth is and be assisting the floor staff as then they will surely demand masks are mandatory and customers’ temperatures are checked?”
The Action Group has previously expressed disappointment that furloughed staff have not had their wages topped up to 100% during cinemas’ enforced closures, and attacked senior management’s general handling of the situation.
The Guardian has contacted both Cineworld and the Cineworld Action Group for comment.
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