In recent weeks there’s been a flood of articles in the mainstream news media about the practice of using zero-hours contracts: a method of working which allows employers to give contracted staff as few or as many working hours as they see fit – with few or no benefits. Companies such as Sports Direct, McDonald’s and Boots have all been the subject of negative reports. Many UK cinemas have also been criticised for utilising these contracts, with the Cineworld chain in particular coming under fire in a piece in The Guardian.
But what’s the reality behind these working practices in our cinemas? Are the screens we visit every week – both big chains and independent arthouses – exploiting their staff for financial gain? Or are zero-hours contracts a necessary evil if cinemas want to remain solvent in tough economic times and we want to continue paying the prices we do for tickets?
We spoke to five interested parties – cinema managers, employees and concerned citizens – to get a measure of how zero-hours contracts affect those who work in London’s cinemas. Our focus is on independent cinemas, and although we contacted a number of the larger chains for comment, they did not respond to our queries.