Popcorn Strikes Hit Skycity Cinemas

– article from the upcoming June 2008 issue of Cinema Worker

Photo: Socialist Aoteaora

Strikes will be spread around the country until the employers offer experienced-based pay for cinema attendants, appropriate rates for supervisors, and secure hours of work with a progressive rostering protocol. The Skycity Cinema offer has been for cinema attendants to start on minimum wage and stay on minimum wage, and for supervisors and projectionists to loose their relativity with other staff. This was rejected and staff voted to take action.

On Tuesday 10 June at 6pm 27 Skycity Cinema workers formed a picket line at the Henderson complex on a busy intersection. Nine of these workers were striking, other Henderson complex workers who were not on shift turned out, as well as four workers from the Broadway and Massey complexes. The strike was taken on the cheap-ticket night and lasted for 80 minutes.

Days later, thirteen cinema workers at the St. Lukes complex took a Friday 13 strike action at 6.30 pm, which is a peak time for movie- goers. The staff were high-spirited and attracted a lot of support
from the public. On the inside of the complex, managers had to work behind the counters to cover the work of the strikers. Unite organisers leafleted customers and asked them not to purchase food
or drink, which many of the customers abided by. The strike has been described as `…one of the most boisterous and celebratory picket lines seen in Auckland since the heady days of the SupersizeMyPay.Com campaign’.

Unfortunately, Westfield, the company which operates the St. Lukes mall put a tresspass order on the site organiser [and Workers Party member – ed] Jared Phillips during the strike. This will be heavily contested by the union and its supporters, as it has no legal standing. The Employment Relations Act guarantees union representatives the right to access workplaces, so the tresspass will be challenged.

On Saturday, the day after the St. Lukes strike, cinema management went into preparation for strike action at the Queen Street complex. This involved bringing in extra staff from other complexes and several managers.

A number of supervisors were involved in both of the strike actions. Two new temps at St. Lukes walked off the job with the permanent part-timers. Another worker who was sent from the Westgate complex
to cover the work of strikers at the Henderson complex joined the strike instead. Special mention goes to these three courageous attendants.

Skycity Cinemas is acting like it wants the union members to beg at negotiations. More strikes are being planned. Public support for food and drink boycotts is growing. The strikes are already starting
to push Skycity Cinemas to revise their previous `final offer’ that they put forward in May of this year.

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