Protests at UK cinemas’ treatment of staff after coronavirus shutdown

Former and current employees of the UK’s biggest cinema chains are protesting at treatment by their employers in the wake of the national cinema shutdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The Cineworld Action Group has criticised the response from Cineworld CEO Mooky Greidinger after widespread outrage over to company’s decision to terminate the employment “with immediate effect” of staff working at both Cineworld and its “boutique” arm Picturehouse.

Cineworld is the UK’s largest operator by market share, with 99 venues and a reported pre-tax profit of $212.4m for 2019 across its global activities. Picturehouse has 26 venues and was purchased in 2012. Cineworld Action Group posted an open letter to Greidinger after the UK government’s decision to pay 80% of employees’ wages, but says Cineworld is yet to change tack and reinstate employees it has already made redundant.

Staff received an email on Friday from Greidinger saying: “If your employment has been terminated … we will come back to you as soon as we can and in particular, whether we can now offer an alternative option to you.” Greidinger added: “It seems that with this virus, we are dealing with a new set of rules each day.” Cineworld Action Group responded on social media saying: “This is not good enough” and that it was “extremely disappointing news”.

A spokesperson for Cineworld said in a statement: “Following the government’s announcement on Friday evening around the support they are now offering the leisure industry, including cinemas and their employees, we have written to our staff to let them know that we are currently reviewing this and assessing what help we are able to give them. We are doing this as quickly as possible and will be updating our employees soon.”

According to the Odeon Workers Union, an independent group of cinema workers not affiliated to entertainment-industry workers union Bectu, Odeon, the UK’s second largest chain by share, announced they would pay staff until 23 March. In a staff update on Monday, the company said it had applied to the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, but it was unclear on what it meant for the large numbers of workers on casual contracts.

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