A brief tale of toil from a worker in a Curzon cinema in London, where there is an ongoing campaign for the London living wage.
We came in the other day and found out that the internet had been blocked at the bar and the tills. Me and my colleague J. were pretty sure that it was because the shift before, while Blue is the Warmest Colour was screening, we were behind the bar watching cat videos on YouTube. Blue is the Warmest Colour is three hours long. That's a lot of cats.
The thing is, working in a cinema is one of those jobs where you get stretches of time where there is nothing to do. The manager used to come up and set us jobs when the screens went in. “Dust that display stand, “Reorganise the muffins” etc.
Boredom is the main problem. It used to be fine, because every post (box office, bar and usher) would have two people on it, and then you could banter. But like many workplaces, our chain has adopted a policy of understaffing. Now the only post that has two people on it is the bar in the evening. Other than that you are on your own. The shifts being between 10 and 12 hours long, this can be quite a test of your sanity. The internet can provide vital relief to someone trapped alone in an underground chamber, with only occasional bursts of queuing customers for company.
Memo from Head Office says that the internet has been blocked to protect against fraud. Me and J. have decided that, unless fraud is a new word for thousands of cat videos, this is probably a lie. Would appreciate more honest memos, such as: “Worms: if you want to surf the internet, get an office job.”
We are not just understaffed on each shift, we also don’t have enough staff overall. I’m not sure what Head Office’s logic is here. No one is. The shortage means we are all working more than we need to. This means no one wants to swap shifts. It is awful. Those of us who are students get really stressed at deadline times. We write essays on the sly behind the bar and on the box office. The manager keeps bollocking us for it, but I think she pities us. She can see the look of desperation in our eyes.
My colleague is on disciplinary because he busted the block on the internet. This guys has always been uncompromising. He’s worked here too long and the boredom and lack of sunlight have hardened him. He’s like the Terminator but with computer skills instead of muscles. Doesn’t smile much but he clearly did this for all of us. Total martyr.
London living wage
Head Office is weird. Sometimes their decisions seem impenetrable. Other times their motives are more clear. For a long time we have been asking for London living wage because we live in London and want to stay alive, which is not easy on a few token pence above national minimum wage.
Recently, Head Office sent out a memo that said that they thought London Living Wage was a great idea and so they are going to start asking the customers if they would like to pay more for their tickets in order that we can have it. This is ridiculous. No one wants to pay more for cinema tickets. They are already scarily expensive. Also, Head Office never see the customers, so really it will be us asking. How the memo should actually read then, is: “You can’t have London minimum wage from our money, but feel free to beg the customers for it.”
We serve organic fair-trade coffee, so you know that workers were not treated unfairly to bring you your café latte. Except of course the miserable fucker who served it to you.
We have also been campaigning to have the union recognised. Just before Christmas Head Office sent round a memo explaining that the union would complicate staff relations, and that they were anyway planning to set up a “staff council” instead. Translation: “Shhhh, shhhhh. Daddy loves you.”
Why do we have a Head Office? If we ran this place ourselves it would be amazing. People get jobs in cinemas because they like movies. A few people here even make their own. We could organise events, screen films, have exhibitions, quizzes and what-not. The cinema would be busier. It may even become hip. This is why chain places are usually so soulless. You can’t manage a vibe from Head Office. Vibe is a ground up thing.
Just found out that Head Office are coming to watch a film here for their xmas party later. I wonder what they will be like. I wouldn’t be surprised if Head Office’s Christmas party involved black magic. Maybe the ritual execution of a panda or something. Who are they?
OK, I’ve seen them now. They are all so beautiful. Their clothes are so nice. Every single one of them just screams: “thinking person’s winter break” at me. They remind me of vitamins. There are also so many of them. Over sixty. What do they do? Why do we only have four people running a two screen cinema, and sixty people in the Head Office?