Rio panics as staff move closer to union protest

rio13: Rio Cinema Dalston Lon March 2013 ©

INDUSTRIAL ACTION is looming at the Rio Cinema after pay talks in a disputes-negotiation forum collapsed.

The Rio refuses to pay the London Living Wage and staff have been effectively keeping the company going by accepting low pay.

This week the workers lost patience. A strike is unlikely, though not impossible: there are other ways in which the 20 or so staff could take disruptive action.

Most of the workers have joined the trade union, Bectu, a development the board opposed.

Nevertheless, the union set up talks with the Rio at Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service).

These are the issues:

* front-of-house staff and cleaners are paid £6.91 an hour, less than at the big chains and comparable independent movie houses;

* the lowest-paid at the Rio want at least a phasing-in of the living wage;

* money owed to staff, all of whom had to take a pay cut to keep the cinema afloat. Management has repaid only half of what Bectu termed an “enforced pay cut”;

* the business has failed to progress at it should have and staff are losing confidence in the board’s ability to manage.

The Acas talks got nowhere. More than 90% of members this week therefore voted for a ballot on whether to take industrial action.rio13: Rio Cinema Dalston Lon March 2013 ©  

Bectu national official Sofie Mason said staff never expected industrial action to be necessary “in a small community cinema” well-loved by the public.

She continued: “They feel frustrated by six months of ‘negotiations’ with a board that has not negotiated, that has never put anything but one proposal on the table, that suddenly withdrew the entire proposal in January on the basis of figures that we dispute and that has consistently ignored the simple solution put forward by the poorest-paid staff who wanted all staff within the bargaining unit to receive a pay rise, even if that meant that they, the poorest-paid, received less of a pay rise.”

Worried Rio supporters have been signing a petition to Rio chairman Patrick Lyons, which says that staff pay cuts “enabled the Rio to avoid bankruptcy”. Asked by Loving Dalston whether he would resign, Lyons did not respond.

Despite the Rio’s refusal to pay the living wage, and despite statements by Mayor Jules Pipe that he wanted the living wage to be a minimum throughout the borough, Hackney council has been helping to keep the cinema going.

Since the vote for a ballot, the board has sprung into action. Manager Oliver Meek has issued a cache of plans to revive Rio fortunes.

David Altheer 260316

* Press Support the Rio Cinema staff to see the petition.

* Forward story: Rio manager counters that pay is higher than at other cinemas 

* Backstory: Clapton cinema gets crowdfunder cash; New trouble at Dalston cinemaRio fails to keep out unionMr Rio quitsMultimillion-pound Hackney giveaway; Rio begs fans for moneyRio first for Corbyn nieceLost Clapton cinema

Rio early 1970s. Pic from Greater London’s Suburban Cinemas 1946-86 by Malcolm Webb (pub Amber Valley Typesetting) © David.Altheer[at]
Hard times: as the Tatler in the early 1970s, the cinema screened soft porn. Pic from Malcolm Webb’s Greater London’s Suburban Cinemas 1946-86

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