Living Wage campaigners still fighting after controversial Trade Union bill is passed

Brixton based “Ritzy Cinema Staff for a Living Wage” have put on the first of many events, this time held at the Wildcard Brewery in Walthamstow, as part of the UK wide Living Wage Week. The group and newly registered company are a grassroots movement whose struggle has gained widespread media attention and celebrity endorsements. They are just one of many trade unions and campaigners who have been continuing the ongoing battle to fight for the living wage in London with a series of fundraisers and events despite news this week that a controversial trade union bill is to be passed.

After a carefully planned strike movement in 2014, supported by famous names from Will Self to Eric Cantona, the Ritzy cinema staff agreed to a 26% pay rise amongst other changes. However shortly after agreeing to the pay rise 70% of staff were made redundant and all staff were asked to reapply for their jobs. Ritzy Cinema Staff for a Living Wage is headed up by Daisy Bata who now works for the National Theatre but has staged this event still with the aim of getting her ex colleagues earning the current living wage by June 2016.

The first event took place in the evening of 9 November as Living Wage Week came to an end. Hundreds of supporters came to chat with likeminded people and enjoy music and craft ales at the independent brewers. Daisy says that part of the success of this and the strike movement in general was the amount of creative influence the workers had at their disposal: “At the Wildcard Brewery event we had free live music, tote bag printing and craft ales thanks to the efforts of our many friends. The cinema is a creative industry which is why our whole movement was just really fun, everything from the posters to the marches was dynamic and interesting, we show our value inherently.”

Daisy had recently appeared alongside two other prominent female figures of the trade unions, a midwife and a firefighter, in a TUC billboard campaign all over London in the run up to the vote on the trade union bill. She is worried about how the amendment will affect their chances of getting the living wage in June as the new rules make strike action significantly harder with impositions including having to make a full report of strike action including any social media posts available to the police no less than 14 days beforehand: “This will definitely make any further strike action difficult and what offends me about that is what that says about the value David Cameron places on workers of lower paid jobs, the majority of which are women. This suggests that our work isn’t deemed worthy enough to earn enough to be able to live on and now he wants to make it harder for us to fight for that living wage, it suggests the solution is for us to all be aspiring big businessmen — what if we don’t want that?”

The next event will take place in February at the DIY Space off Old Kent Road and will feature performances from alternative bands Sacred Paws already confirmed. Daisy says it’s all part of uniting campaigners from around London: “this issue is a patchwork quilt and we are all taking up our corner. We’re also looking to join forces with the queer scene with the sort of musicians we’ve booked for the February event- we want to show people that we aren’t just one demographic that has decided we’re unfairly treated, we are a very diverse group of people and we are fighting for us all. We have to make the most of our platform we’ve created.”

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