Cineworld staff on zero-hours contracts say they have been wrong-footed by the cinema chain’s decision to keep them on, even though the closure of its cinemas means they have no shifts.
“People want the option to take redundancy but that doesn’t seem to be what the company wants to do,” one contractor told the Guardian. “It feels like they’re holding us hostage.”
Related: Cineworld’s zero-hours staff face no pay as it confirms UK shutdown
The majority of Cineworld’s 5,500 staff working at its 127 UK sites are on zero-hours contracts which do not guarantee any regular work. However, those with more than two years service would be entitled to redundancy pay if they were being let go.
Video: Government to pay two thirds of employees’ wages if businesses forced to shut (PA Media)
In an email to thousands of zero-hours contractors, Cineworld chief executive, Mooky Greidinger, said he hoped its theatres, which closed temporarily on Thursday for an indefinite period, would be shut for the short term only and the company would be “able to offer you new shifts again”. Staff are being paid for hours worked this week, plus a week of furlough pay based on their shifts for the corresponding period last year.
“Cineworld plans to keep them on, which means they don’t have to give them any holiday or redundancy pay,” explained one cinema manager.
Cineworld’s lack of respect for its staff was, he said, summed up by the company’s decision to give them free sweets on their last shift on Thursday – but comprised of confectionery with a November best-before-date only.
The company’s senior managers are being given the choice of taking unpaid leave until the business reopens or voluntary redundancy, but they only have until noon on Monday to make their decision.
In a statement, Cineworld said the temporary closure of its cinemas and the current criteria of the government’s job support scheme meant it was “no longer able to support a number of our valued workforce”.