Empire Cinema workers in Walthamstow, east London, found out they’d been sacked when they read the notice on the cinema’s locked door (Picture: Joel Hirsch)

When bosses at the Empire Cinema chain this week announced they were to dissolve their firm into administration they had clearly thought hard about their workers.

The night before the closure, managers invited staff at the Walthamstow branch, in east London, to a “special meeting” that they said was “insurance-related.” But the meeting was a trick.

“While we were all gathered in one part of the building, administrators brought in locksmiths to change all the locks and padlock the fire exits, without us knowing,” sacked worker Peter told Socialist Worker.

The bosses’ real aim had been to ensure that none of their workers could get back on site after the closure was announced, and that they could not take action to save their jobs.

Staff that came to open the cinema the next morning found their keys were useless, but that a note had been left for them on the door.

It said that Empire was now shut down and that the pay workers are owed would have to be claimed from the administrators or the government.

“I was in the Walthamstow branch being trained for a role in what they said would be a new cinema in Basildon, in Essex. Just a week ago, they told me the new cinema would open in September, but it was all lies,” said Peter.

He added that most of the now jobless workers were young, between 18 and 25 years old, but that all the Walthamstow managers were sacked too.

“So, we’ve all been thrown on the streets, but that’s not how it is at head office,” he says. “The managers there have all had pay rises. They’ve all had an easy time of it.

“I want to know what happened to our legal right to at least 30-days notice of possible redundancy? And, given they’ve shut five other cinemas today too, that should be 45-days because more than 100 people are affected.”

 The other cinemas now closed are in Bishop’s Stortford, Catterick Garrison, Sunderland, Swindon and Wigan. The already-closed cinema at Sutton Coldfield will not reopen.

The remaining sites in Birmingham, Clydebank, High Wycombe, Ipswich and Sutton, and the two Tivoli-branded venues in Bath and Cheltenham, will continue to trade as the administrators look for a buyer.

These workers should know they could be sacked at any time—and should not go quietly. 

Peter said, “This sort of behaviour just sums up a lot of employers these days, and it makes me really angry. No one thinks about the young people who are now going to struggle to pay their rent and bills.

“Looking back at it now, I wish we’d all been in a union. At least that way someone would stand up for us.”

He is right. With the Tories deliberately trying to crash the economy in order to knock back inflation, we can expect many more firms to go to the wall.

And, that means all workers, especially young workers, need to organise to fight for their jobs and their rights.


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