I Found Out I Was Losing My Cineworld Job On Social Media

The arts sector is dying a slow and painful death in this climate, and we urgently need help. Cinema simply will not survive if you don’t step in.
A woman holds an umbrella as she walks past a Cineworld in Leicester's Square, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, October 4, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
A woman holds an umbrella as she walks past a Cineworld in Leicester's Square, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in London, Britain, October 4, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls
Henry Nicholls / Reuters

I had my feet up, watching a new Amazon TV show with a custard cream in one hand and a cuppa in the other.

Arguably, things were going well – until a message popped up on my phone in the Cineworld staff group chat.

I wish I hadn’t checked it. All my friends from work were typing furiously: “Not again”; “Seriously…?”; ”Guys check Twitter”.

So I checked, and just like that I found out I was losing my job – by social media.

I’ve worked for Cineworld for four years as a team leader. I’ve given my hardest work, the longest hours and all my efforts to that company unfalteringly. But this is how their staff found out they would be losing their livelihoods in the midst of a global pandemic: through a leaked report in the Sunday Times.

The worst part is, this isn’t even the first time it’s happened. At the beginning of the pandemic, Cineworld asked the general manager of every site to pop their employees a quick phone call. Hey pal, yeah sorry, you don’t have a job any more.

Last time, we were bailed out by the furlough scheme. But this time, it was the media who told us, and there was no government bailout package to cushion the blow.

“We all begin furiously spamming our managers late into the evening, demanding answers. But no one had anything to tell us.”

We all begin furiously spamming our managers late into the evening, demanding answers. But no one had anything to tell us. They were just as upset and outraged as we were.

It quickly became apparent that this decision, that would affect thousands of employees, had been made in a boardroom by faceless executives, and not a single bit of communication had been relayed to those it would hurt.

The next day, we were emailed an apology that “internal discussions have leaked”. It hardly felt like the apology we deserved – especially as it didn’t acknowledge the impact of these job losses, only that they had been caught short. Worse, the email didn’t clarify the situation – would we be losing our jobs or not?

On Monday, we were back at work. Customer after customer approached us: “Sorry to hear you’re not going to have a job”. It was so painful. No one should have to work like that. I didn’t know whether I should be applying for jobs or not.

The managers did their best to keep spirits up, but even they were absolutely appalled at Cineworld’s lack of empathy for their staff.

Later, we were pulled aside and explicitly told “not to talk to the press”, or else you “face losing pay”. But no one asked if we were okay.

I stayed at Cineworld because my colleagues are my family, our managers are our friends – but the love stops there. I have seen time and time again Cineworld treat its staff as disposable – we are undervalued, unappreciated and disenfranchised.

“Cinema is an escape from a harsh reality, and we need that now more than ever.”

Finally, we received an email from the CEO confirming what most of us already knew by this point: Cineworld’s cinemas would be closing.

But still no clarity about our jobs. Are we being made redundant? Or are we going to be laid off? Unpaid leave? It’s been four days and we still have no information. The staff feel as though we are screaming into an abyss and no-one is listening. I ask you to imagine yourself as someone like me, who pays £1,000 a month in rent, bills, phone, car, food and general expenses. How would losing your £1,100 job a month affect you? Yeah, devastating.

And now, get another job, they say. But where? Nowhere is hiring. They haven’t even made team members redundant, they’re keeping the zero-hour contract staff on unpaid leave. Members with families can’t file for unemployment or Universal Credit. They don’t get redundancy. They get nothing, and it’s deplorable.

The only reason Cineworld kept us on last time is because of the government’s divine intervention. Thus, I implore Rishi Sunak or Boris Johnson or anyone to look at our position and help us. The arts sector is dying a slow and painful death in this climate, and we urgently need help. Cinema simply will not survive if you don’t step in.

Do you remember how you felt enveloped in darkness, with the scent of sweet popcorn in the air, when Frodo threw the ring into Mount Doom? When Chewbacca and Han returned to the Millennium Falcon? When the Delorean sped off into the distance? When Woody and Buzz made their way back to Andy? When Hogwarts took its last stand against the Dark Lord? When Captain America picked up Mjolnir?

Don’t take that away from future generations. Cinema is an escape from a harsh reality, and we need that now more than ever.

Cineworld doesn’t seem to care about us. But please, for the sake of cinema, for the sake of our livelihoods and hard work, someone has to. Or else we will all suffer.

This author, who has asked to remain anonymous, is a Cineworld team leader based in south England

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