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Low wages, art lovers and big directors

Should Cornerhouse pay their staff the Manchester minimum wage?

Published on February 18th 2009.

Low wages, art lovers and big directors
Yes: - 42%
No: - 58%

Cornerhouse is an independent charitable trust and Greater Manchester’s international centre for cinema and contemporary visual art. It's both innovative and unconventional. Yet two major film directors are boycotting the venue because they're not paying some staff the Manchester minimum wage.

The lowest paid workers at Cornerhouse currently earn £5.73 per hour which is £1.01 less than the Manchester minimum wage of £6.74. The Manchester minimum wage is currently for council workers, but the council are trying to encourage other employers in the city to adopt the policy. At the end of last year councillor Bernard Priest said: “We recognise the importance of lower-paid workers to the development of Manchester as a world class city.”

Director, Mike Leigh is responsible for films such as Vera Drake and Secrets & Lies. He's from Higher Broughton in Salford and it's partly because of this that he is so passionate about Manchester's only arthouse cinema.

He joins director Ken Loach in the anti-Cornerhouse corner. He said: “I don't think there's any justification for paying starvation wages. If you hire people you have to pay them the right money.”

And the fact that Cornerhouse is a charity doesn't excuse the low wages either according to Leigh. In the letter to the MEN, he said: “The excuse that the cinema is a charity is understandable but as a charity it surely must prioritise the spending of its funds in favour of its dedicated workforce.”

Whilst Loach said: “This is a straightforward case of management taking advantage of workers who are not in a position to take action, it's just straight exploitation.”

So why is Cornerhouse not offering more to its workers?

Cornerhouse director and chief executive Dave Moutrey told Confidential: “No one has a big fat salary here. The people who are on the minimum wage do a simple job like collecting tickets. It's not the cleaners or anyone who has to do a dirty or difficult job, plus the majority of staff enjoy the other benefits here. We're not champions for social justice. We all have a shared interest in the arts here and although we'd love to pay our staff more we simply haven't got it to spend.

“We're always busy trying to raise money and this puts a downer on that,” he continued. “What about all those multiplexes that only pay minimum wage? Cornerhouse is an independent charity. It's disappointing that Mike Leigh and Ken Loach, whom we've supported for 20 years haven't contacted us about this issue and have instead gone straight to the paper.”

Vote on the homepage on whether you agree with Loach or Leigh or whether Moutrey is the man.

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33 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

CivilianFebruary 18th 2009.

Get real. For a while I missed the point that it was The 'Manchester' minimum wage, something the council use; they can, they don't have to juggle like mad. I have just laid off five people; the staff should thank their lucky stars they are in work. They can leave and go elsewhere. I am assuming that they are paid the 'real' minimum wage in my rantings.

rosieFebruary 18th 2009.

if any of the cornerhouse staff have their wages increased,will they end up losing money from elsewhere?working and child tax credits are means tested. would the manc minimum end up costing employers but saving manchester council in the amount they pay in housing and council tax benefits to the less well paid?

LollycatFebruary 18th 2009.

why not look at the rest of the bars and restaurants in town? i can tell you for a fact that most of them pay the government minimum wage. get over it - it's a bar job!

Sarah PrinceFebruary 18th 2009.

Leigh has stepped out of line here. Makes me worried about his films.

ChickFebruary 18th 2009.

Lollycat; there are an awful lot of bars and restaurants that don't even pay National minimum wage. They pay around £3.00 per hour and the remainder is made up from service charge or tips. This 'Manchester' wage is a joke - only over-paid, under-worked civil servents would dream that one up

George BFebruary 18th 2009.

I think the 'Manchester wage' is too low. Workers at the Cornerhouse should be on a minimum of £15 per hour.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

Maybe the people who say Cornerhouse should pay the staff higher than National minimum wage would like to give the Cornerhouse this money so that they can pay their staff higher wages. It easy to criticise from the outside. Many business struggle to pay overheads including wages

emma graceFebruary 18th 2009.

You're bang on Chick. Aren't they making the subsidising of wages using tips illegal practice sometime this year? There was quite a lot of coverage on it a few months ago and I've not seen anything since...

scoteeeFebruary 18th 2009.

-Thing is it's a charity, if people want to work for a charity then they have to be charitable.With this in mind, I would assume that the charitable Director and Chief Executive isn't on minimum wage?

ChickFebruary 18th 2009.

emma grace; true, the loophole that allows this is due to be closed later this year. There was a lot of huffing and puffing about this at the time of the Labour party conference in September and the Fair tips charter was discussed and promoted. It then died a death

Ben JacksonFebruary 18th 2009.

I think it is scandalous that they want to pay less that the minimum wage. Anyone who works for them is letting themselves and all other workers who are on mimimum wage down. Power to the workers!

CastlefieldFebruary 18th 2009.

What an utter joke! The 'Manchester minimum wage??!!'If you want good wages, don't work in a bar or collect cinema tickets you tool. This is what has gone wrong with this economy, people expect something for nothing.Are the bar staff at the cornerhouse declaring their tips and paying tax and national insurance on them? Think not.Lesson here is to get off your fat lazy, I always wanna be a student, arse and go out and get a proper job. Then work your way up and one day you may not even get paid by the hour. Wash your hair first though.And don't give it all that 'there isn't any proper jobs out there'. Stop thinking you're better than 80% of the jobs available and do it.Isn't about time the civil servants earned the ACTUAL minimum wage. Surely their wages should be coming down soon.I remember every single year when civil sector wage increases came along they all wanted to be paid 'in line with inflation'. When the figures finally turn into deflation will they be marching through the streets for this?Thought not.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

Ben, Cornerhouse is paying its staff the minimum wage. It's the 'Manchester Living Wage' which is under discussion which is a very different thing. In Nov 2008 MCC stated: “Now that the proposal to create a 'Manchester Minimum Wage' has been approved, the council will work closely with other public sector organisations to encourage take up across the city.” The Cornerhouse is not a public sector organisation so why this debate is taking place I have no idea. Cornerhouse is a Charity and in these difficult times when trusts and foundations are collapsing it could do with a bit of support from people such as Ken and Mike. Put your money where your mouth is and help out the organisation that has always supported your films!

bodzy3February 18th 2009.

i thought the idea of being a registered charity was so that the tax laws are more relaxed and you didnt have to pay overheads like other business so why abuse the system by failing to pay like some one said "I'll bet the directors or management are not on minimum" And people wonder why a lot of people support charitys , we are just feeding the management

cinefanFebruary 18th 2009.

I shall, then, boycott Loach and Leigh's films considering their utter lack of manners for not contacting the best person to answer their concern, Cornerhouse director, and their obvious need for publicity. This whole thing has been blown out of proportion and is damaging an independent organisation which does not rely on Manchester city council but on exterior funding. Also, the bar and the rest of Cornerhouse are two separate companies, so stop thinking that Cornerhouse is making a profit from the prices of beer and food and that it is not paying bar staff enough etc. The issue here is the salary of ushers and ushers only. Now, seriously or pragmatically thinking: being paid more than national minimum wage to sit and watch a film! In times of financial crisis, whilst working for a charity organisation!!! What is happening to these two directors? Have they lost touch with reality? It looks like it. I haven't. I refuse to live in a world full of Odeons and big corporate businesses. Cornerhouse might not be perfect but it's, like most businesses, struggling to make ends meet. A little bit of support for the independent film industry would be so much more constructuve than a boycott... I love Cornerhouse and I really hope it will not suffer from this badmouthing.

CastlefieldFebruary 18th 2009.

Is this lefty central?Bodzy3 (where are 1 and 2?), they are not failing to pay. They are law abiding and are paying the national minimum wage not some wage thought up by a group of people who have probably never worked in the private sector.And as for the Directors and Management not being on minimum - Eh? If everyone is paid the same isn't that communism?Do you seriously believe a Director or Manager should be paid the same as someone who mans the cloakroom?

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

If I read one more posting along the lines of "I bet the management aren't on minimum wage" I think I'll actually lose the will to live. Cretins.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

I bet the management aren't on minimum wage. HTH x

AnnaFebruary 18th 2009.

I saw this issue in the top left of the screen asking me to vote. Naturally, I wanted to take a look as I was surprised to hear that Cornerhouse aren't paying the minimum wage. Only on reading the article does it transpire that this is something called the 'Manchester' minimum wage rather than the national minimum wage. What is Manchester Confidential trying to do when it asks people to vote on something without giving the full facts? I know that the article does specify this is not the national minimum wage but judging the comments above there are people for whom this is not apparent. This could clearly be damaging for Cornerhouse when they have done nothing wrong. For a website which professes to be promoting cultural life in Manchester, this is a really odd thing to do! Had I not looked at this further I might have considered not using Cornerhouse as it was unethical.Furthermore, 'Castlefield', I can't help asking, would you have the same attitude when someone who has studied years at university to become a doctor treats you when you're in need? I don't think so. Do you think the people who helped protect Castlefield from the greed of developers or from years of decay and neglect 'got a proper job and worked their way up?' Chances are they went to uni too. What about lawyers, you might need one of them someday? If everyone followed your advice the country would be in a pretty bad state in a few years time. People with these attitudes could benefit from some more education!

CastlefieldFebruary 18th 2009.

Anna, I have been treated by Doctors funnily enough. Ones that are paid pretty well I think as the job they do is highly trained by definition. However their training is also very subsidised but I can abide by that as they pay high taxes. I don't think it takes several years at Uni to be a planner! Come on. My argument is that the Civil Servants on minimum wage, let's say road sweepers etc should get paid the actual minimum and not a distorted one. Hope you understand it better now, sorry I wasn't clearer. Lawyers are not public sector and isn't it solicitors unless we've hopped accross the pond! I wasn't arguing against education just the attitude of some people who go through it. When you've wedged that chip off your shoulder read my comments again and hopefully your excellent education will help you comprehend it better.

George BFebruary 18th 2009.

Anna - Is Castlefield being protected from 'greedy developers' or 'from years of neglect and decay'? Currently seems like the latter is winning out. There is a fine line between the two and the planners are certainly not educated enough to realise this, so maybe paying them the minimum wage would be justified.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

I wonder exactly who is paying the wages to whom?. I thought the catering operation was a concession, and was a private sector organisation, and nothing to do with the 'charity'. Iam not sure who pays the front of house staff. Personally I have long seen the various 'credits' as a subsidy to employers. Do any of them pay people according to how much credit they get?

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

Yes the catering company is a separate company to the rest of Cornerhouse and staff working in the cafe bar are not emplyed through Cornerhouse by the company that runs the cafe bar. Front of House staff and ushers are paid by Cornerhouse (the charity).

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

Yes the catering company is a separate company to the rest of Cornerhouse and staff working in the cafe bar are not employed through Cornerhouse but by the company that runs the cafe bar. Front of House staff and ushers are paid by Cornerhouse (the charity).”

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

so who is not paying the extra £1 ph to whom. I think Mr S should do some subbing before he publishes articles which stir things up.

cigpapersFebruary 18th 2009.

Only a BNP Government can make sense of this minimum wage madness!

rosieFebruary 18th 2009.


KeithoFebruary 18th 2009.

Pay them the legal going rate to say pay them because is a charity is placing employees on the sympathy list.All charities have directors getting a 6 figure wage , everyone makes a choice so pay them the correct minimum wage and get real,credit crunch is made by the 'Elite for the Elite' not the banks not the government but by the Bilderberg group of rulers since 1954.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

I think you'll find that a lot of arts charity directors are on a much lower 5 figure wage and not a 6 figure wage. Cornerhouse pays its ushers the minimum wage as do most other cinemas. Why is this even a story?!

Memory ManFebruary 18th 2009.

Strange article. Nothing in it about about the Cornerhouse's history of breaking Employment laws. The 1997 Minimum Wage was only paid in 2002 when the Enforcement Team Called on the organisation. Holiday Pay & Sick Pay that should have been payed under the 1998 Working Time Regulations was only payed in when a local MP compelled the Cornerhouse to in Dec 2003.Like the Council it's run on tax-payers money - unlike the council - management just dont want to pay public sector rates to frontline workers. Its charity status is simply a means for a public sector organisation to get out of paying tax. This pay policy was successfully implemented in London. If the Cornerhouse break it here it will be busted for insecure workers everywhere in the city - and Manchester will have failed where London succeeded.

Jane CooperFebruary 18th 2009.

If I was one of the lowly paid workers at Cornerhouse, I'd be livid as last time I heard ushers '... who are on the minimum wage do a simple job like collecting tickets', were responsible for: fire marshalling/evacuation, FOH 'meet and greet' and are the very public face of a prominent organization. 'Simple'? How patronising and condesending in the extreme to belittle the work they do thus. Does Mr Moutrey think he, personally, is paying ushers what he thinks they are worth? I sense that he holds them in no high esteem and would pay 3rd world child wages, if he thought he could get away with it. Plus, it's okay then to pay cleaners more as they do far less hours, so no biggie here for him.

AnonymousFebruary 18th 2009.

I've just read Jane's comments and agree, totally. Plus, I'm geniunely shocked by what Memory Man said here! Are the non 'fat cat' (as Mr Moutrey says) big staff foregoing their annual cost of living rise in April in sympathy with their poorly paid colleagues on the front line? It seems shockng that charities can get away with mistreating and disrepecting their staff like this: all in the name of 'charity'. Does that not begin at home? Did cornerhouse not get fined by the Enforecement Team? It seems that some senior manager (their general manager, if they have one), somewhere in their organization, needs to be held publically to account - now!

JoanFebruary 18th 2009.

Just a little note: the one thing that cinema ushers very rarely get to do when they are on duty is see the film - as the sensible post above says, they are there for your safety and security. Funny - people are very quick to criticise FOH staff for being paid "to do nothing" but strangely equally quick to moan if things aren't done well and with a friendly smile.All arts charities would love to pay their staff more, from cleaners, FOH right up to curators, directors and artistic staff, but as it is, the money just isn't there. Working for the arts is a almost a vocation for most people involved - we could all earn more in the commercial sphere but choose not to because we passionately believe that people's lives are enhanced by the arts we present. This does not excuse exploitation at any time and certainly, we should all be on guard against the creeping "volunteer culture" that is overtaking many publicly funded events. Look at many public events websites, not just in the arts, and you'll find a big plea for volunteers.The Cornerhouse is a brilliant asset for Manchester and it seems really unfair to single it out in this way - the going rate for FOH stewards outside London is around the £6 mark, so they are not too badly off. You could, of course, all decide that you want to pay £10 a time for your tickets and really help them out....

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