Cinema employees to strike at tonight's Star Wars premiere

Employees at Event Cinemas Queen St will strike at the midnight premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story.
Employees at Event Cinemas Queen St will strike at the midnight premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story. Photo credit: Disney/Google Maps

Cinema employees will strike for higher wages at Wednesday night's premiere of Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The Unite union has organised a walk-out and rally at Event Cinemas on Queen St during the midnight screening.

Union members will also be striking at all Event Cinemas from 10pm on Wednesday until 3am on Thursday. There will be a partial strike at Event Cinemas Albany, with union members refusing to sell food and beverage between 10:30pm on Wednesday until 1am on Thursday.

Hannah Shelton Agar, the cinemas organiser for Unite, told Newshub that the union is protesting the "tired narrative that cinemas don't make money anymore".

She says workers aren't being fairly compensated for their labour by Event Cinemas, which is one of several cinema chains operated by Australian parent company Event Hospitality and Entertainment.

Unite wants to ensure that workers' wages continue to rise alongside New Zealand's minimum wage.

The union has chosen the much-anticipated Solo, a star-studded big-budget feature, as the vehicle with which to deliver their message.

"No one can deny that lots of money will be made at tonight's premiere, from ticket sales to popcorn," Ms Shelton Agar says.

"It's about reminding people where the money's going."

Event Cinemas says they were only told of the strike late on Wednesday afternoon. 

"We have advised Unite that we believe the strike action is unlawful," says the company.

It says all movies will screen as scheduled and that customers attending the midnight screening of Solo will not be affected.

Non-striking cinema employees will serve customers during the time of the protest.

Event Cinemas says it has been in negotiations with Unite since April.

"We have made a proposal for an overall wage increase of 4 percent, which we believe is fair.  This is the highest wage increase that we have ever offered and we understand that the average annual wage increase across all industries last year was 1.9 percent.

"We remain committed to negotiating with the Union in good faith and we have indicated our willingness to meet to progress the negotiations. We are committed to providing a positive working environment for all our staff.”

A rally will be held outside the cinema as workers walk out in protest. Unite expects more than 50 people to participate in the event.