Over the last couple of weeks Actors Equity has been quietly negotiating for a minimum standards contract for the Hobbit.
Things were looking good. So good in fact that the union had agreed to withdraw advice to their members that they don’t sign. They even drew up a joint statement to announce this. A statement that was drawn up with the producers, finalised last Sunday and was to be released early this week. As I understand it this statement was co-written with Peter Jackson himself.
Last night Jackson, and other employer reps decided to launch a broadside attack on the union claiming they had single handedly destroyed the New Zealand film industry and that the film is likely to go overseas. These claims have been widely reported verbatim.
But as Gordon Campbell points out, the real issue is much bigger than a few local actors wanting conditions in line with those of the overseas workers they’ll be working alongside. It’s about the tax breaks available to the industry – tax breaks that are half of some of those being offered by competing countries.
Unsurprisingly Gerry Brownlee, who has had been party to the negotiations, sounded sick on Morning Report this morning. He had a weak crack at claiming our “flexible” labour laws were what attracted the film industry here and avoided the tax question quite obviously. But, unusually for Brownlee, he didn’t even sound like he believed his own words.
AE is a small union up against a powerful corporation and they could have done a better job of a lot of things including getting their message out but the kind of bad faith and aggression that has been shown by Jackson and his team is astounding and cynical and sets a new low for employment relations in New Zealand.