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Cinema Workers Strike in Wellington

Cinema Workers Strike in Wellington

On Saturday night (26 January) workers at Island Bay's Empire Cinema and Cafe went on strike for one hour to protest against the owner's reluctance to bargain with their union.

Unite Union, which represents cinema workers around the country, has been trying to negotiate a collective employment agreement with Empire Cinema and Cafe for the past nine months. So far the owner, Ian Hay, has been uncommunicative and stonewalling. The union had to contact the Mediation Service of the Department of Labour just to get him to attend the first negotiation. In the past nine months only four hours of bargaining have taken place. The decision to strike came after Mr Hay ignored repeated emails and faxes from the union asking him to confirm a date for the next negotiation. Fed up with the way they were being treated, the workers decided that action needed to be taken.

The strike started at 7:30pm with all the workers on shift taking part. Two workers left the buliding where they were met outside by their workmates and supporters. Earlier it had been decided that the other two workers would stay inside to fulfill Health and Safety obligations to the customers already in movies. The two workers who stayed on duty took part in a partial strike, only selling tickets to movie sessions and leaving customers to go to the dairy across the road for ice creams and other movie staples.

About fifteen people gathered outside where they held signs and handed out leaflets to customers explaining why the workers were striking. The strike was a huge success with around eighty customers signing a petition urging the owner to start negotiating properly with the union. A large number of customers chose to support the strike by taking their custom elsewhere, some deciding to ask for a refund on tickets they had booked earlier in the day.


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