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The Standard

Nats back Jackson over Kiwi workers

Written By: - Date published: 8:48 am, September 30th, 2010 - 111 comments
Categories: Unions, workers' rights - Tags: ,

The Dom Post reports that the government is backing Jackson’s claim independent contractors can’t negotiate as a group.

Apparently it would be price fixing because these workers are not considered workers but are considered to be a whole lot separate businesses. Which is exactly the situation big employers in the film industry have engineered over time.

This is a classic example of asking a narrow question to get the answer you want.

A more interesting question to ask crown law would be whether there is any impediment to producers employing these film workers as fixed term employees and, if there isn’t, what rights they would have to collective bargaining if they were employed this way. But I don’t think that National would like the answer they got to that question.

If anything this situation highlights the huge loophole in New Zealand law that allows large employers to circumvent employment law, and the protections it offers workers, by refusing to offer work to anybody unless they accept it as an independent contractor.

This comes with the added benefit of transferring a whole lot of the business risk (such as insurance, weather delays and health and safety) from the company to the worker.

Just last year Telecom did exactly this to nearly a thousand lines workers in Northland and Auckland by swapping regional contracts from firms that employed them to a firm that refused to allow them to work unless they did so as independent contractors; a move that triggered massive strike action but that ultimately resulted in hundreds of Auckland workers ending up stripped of protections such as minimum wage, health and safety protections and the right to collective bargaining.

Clearly this is a loophole that a government that cared about the basic rights of Kiwi workers would be looking to close (and it’s shameful the last government didn’t) but it seems that, once again, National is more interested in looking after overseas businesses than it is in stopping the exploitation of Kiwi workers.

111 comments on “Nats back Jackson over Kiwi workers”

  1. Tiger Mountain 1

    Expected opinion from the Natz Finlayson. The film industry has always been divide and rule with producers preying on underemployed actors and techies, some of whom unfortunately seem to have acquired a fawning attitude to their cruel masters. Others are just scared “you’ll never work in this town again” anecdotes abound in media circles. NZ Equity has soldiered on bravely largely with volunteer staff and it was heartening to see the well attended meeting a day ago.

    Lets hope some international solidarity with SAG and other offshore unions pulls Sir Jackson back into line.

    The Chorus workers Irish Bill mentions above in reality are ‘dependent’ contractors-who else would majorly direct work their way apart from the company-‘Telecon’ that just previously payed them wages and provided various conditions for performing the same tasks for largely the same customers. It is just a ‘shell game’ to strip workers rights.

    • Carol 1.1

      But the CTU has responded pretty quickly to Nats taking sides:

      http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/4181258/Union-criticises-Nats-over-battling-for-Jackson

      The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (CTU) says it is furious at Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson for “taking sides” in the debate over The Hobbit. …
      CTU president Helen Kelly said that advice was biased towards Jackson and as a lawyer, Mr Finlayson would know that.

      “That’s like saying, ‘I can’t talk to you because this conversation would be illegal,'” Ms Kelly said.

      Just because there would be contractors working on the project that did not rule out having a union contract, she said.

      “The union is simply seeking to set the minimum terms and conditions for workers – whether its an employment agreement or contractual agreement there can still be standard terms and conditions.”

      Ms Kelly said the matter was actually very simple – a union was seeking to negotiate terms and an employer was refusing.

  2. Roflcopter 2

    So, considering this whole existing arrangement between NZ film companies and actors has been in place across 3+ PJ films, and numerous others, over a period covering at least a decade, why has it suddenly become a problem now for you lot?

    A shonky union, with no legal standing in New Zealand blurts out some crap and you go “Oh look it’s a union it must be right!”.

    The decision to move off-shore is now completely out of PJ’s hands. If his backers in the U.S say move, he’ll have no choice, and you will have been responsible for the wiping of $2.5b+ of spending and tax revenue, 000’s of jobs being lost etc.

    You are so awesome!

    But of course, you’ll just blame PJ coz he’s rich.

    • IrishBill 2.1

      It’s always been an issue but it is now a public issue because people are finally taking a stand on it. Your argument is akin to saying “slavery has been around forever why should we suddenly be against it now?” It’s the worst kind of conservatism.

      I don’t think they’ll move to Eastern Europe as the money saved on wages would be eaten up by the difficulties of doing business there but you seem to be arguing that the only thing that makes NZ a good place to make films in is a low-paid workforce. That’s not really the kind of competitive advantage a first world nation can build a sustainable industry on.

      • Tigger 2.1.1

        Some of us worked to alter this situation for years. No progress because the forces against us, producers, were simply too big. And we couldn’t get traction overseas about it. Equity has worked long and hard towards this position.

        This union is not ‘shonky’ – they are acting utterly appropriately. The shonkiness is coming from Jackson and now the Minister, who is part of a government that created this situation (pre-Employment Contracts Act the industry was employee-based).

        Great posts, IB. Keep them up.

        And Equity need support. It’s scary and lonely being up against Orcs like Jackson and Finlayson. http://www.actorsequity.org.nz/contact-equity to send them a quick ‘stay brave’.

      • Roflcopter 2.1.2

        I don’t think they’ll move to Eastern Europe as the money saved on wages would be eaten up by the difficulties of doing business there”

        Well, with the CTU wading into the furor thinks are getting worse and worse, and the risk greater and greater. Solidarity for the good of all right? Well, except for the workers who will probably miss out, but that’s OK according to you.

        If a big overseas corporate started dictating how it wanted business done in NZ you’d be all over it with fire and brimstone, but an overseas union with no legal standing in NZ tries it on and it’s ok…. simply awesome.

        but you seem to be arguing that the only thing that makes NZ a good place to make films in is a low-paid workforce.”

        Really? Myself and many others who worked as extras thought we were extremely well paid and looked after. And calls to talkback yesterday echoed these same sentiments.

        • Tigger 2.1.2.1

          Really? Because I know many ‘extras’ who have been not well paid nor well treated on shoots here.

          And it’s about more than just giving you a cup of coffee during the break…

      • jacinda 2.1.3

        Lol, thats one of the worst strawman positions I’ve ever heard……

        Comparing people getting paid above minimum wage (yes above $12.50) to slavery. Sorry, but thats just so far off the mark, there wasn’t any point even coming up with it.

        Newsflash, I work in IT (for a European company) and people in equivalent positions to me get paid more in the Northern Hemishphere and Australia too. If I wanted to get paid the same amount as people in Europe or the States or wherever, then it is up to me to move over there and live. I’m happy as larry living in NZ though, and love the lifestyle, so I don’t mind getting paid less. These twit actors need to wake up and realise this too.

        • Colonial Viper 2.1.3.1

          If I wanted to get paid the same amount as people in Europe or the States or wherever, then it is up to me to move over there and live.

          Speaking of strawman positions you just created one right here. The argument is not about being paid the same as actors in Europe or the US, is it?

          These twit actors need to wake up and realise this too.

          Oh you’re so superior :roll:

    • Colonial Viper 2.2

      why has it suddenly become a problem now for you lot?

      Because it has become clear that now there is a lot of money on the table – the corporates and the bosses want it all for themselves. They aren’t even willing to sit down and discuss minimum conditions with workers.

      The decision to move off-shore is now completely out of PJ’s hands. If his backers in the U.S say move, he’ll have no choice,

      BS***. PJ should have backed NZ workers from the get go, instead of acting as an agent for his corporate pay masters and their corporate legal advisors.

      But of course, you’ll just blame PJ coz he’s rich.

      You’re being deliberately simplistic. PJ could be rich and also back minimum standards and employment protections for workers. Then he’d be a bloody hero to working people in the industry.

      • jacinda 2.2.1

        So, can you link to me some articles about how badly people were paid and treated when working on King Kong and Lord of the Rings?

        If not, what are you complaining about?

        • Colonial Viper 2.2.1.1

          That people should have the right to be on an employment contract with employment protections and minimum wage stipulations if they are being used as employees.

          If not, what are you complaining about?

          You’re smart, why haven’t you figured it out for yourself yet? Deliberately obtuse huh?

    • Tiger Mountain 2.3

      Lets employ some basic comprehension skills here ‘Rofl’ “you lot” and “you will”… who the hell are you attempting to describe here? The people that will decide the fate of the Hobbit are film execs and investors and union members both here in NZ and offshore. Blog commenters to greater and lesser degrees just give opinions, reasonably accurate like mine or off the wall like yours.

    • Roger 2.4

      Riiiight. Its all the unions and workers who are at fault for having the audacity to not accept being criminally exploited. Same with every other industry right? I we all offered our service for 50c an hour we would be a much better country with all of our industries being much stronger. It is never the fault of the executives who decide they unreasonably want more for less, it is the unscrupulous workers and unions who unreasonably want a living wage and conditions that are better than concentration camps.

      • Roflcopter 2.4.1

        Riiiight. Its all the unions and workers who are at fault for having the audacity to not accept being criminally exploited.

        This is an environment Labour set up and endorsed, for almost a decade, for the investment opportunities to be realised. Or has all that changed now that National is government?

        • Roger 2.4.1.1

          Now that the investment opportunities have been realised and the industry is doing well is it not fair that having paid their dues, that the workers should expect something in return from the people at the top that they helped to elevate there?

        • IrishBill 2.4.1.2

          I agree that Labour should shoulder a lot of the blame here. In fact I mentioned that in my post. My take on it is that they placed more value on the film industry’s ability to help build nationalism than they did on the rights of film workers.

          • Colonial Viper 2.4.1.2.1

            Well sometimes you have to lean over backwards to build a new industry up in the hope of future rewards for your citizens. (And no doubt Labour were advised by the film industry players what was needed to do that). Well, the future is today, people, lets go get those rewards.

        • Swampy 2.4.1.3

          Not quite. Labour changed the law around 2005 so that the union has a pre eminent right to demand a collective agreement, they are just trying on their new powers before National removes them.

  3. comedy 3

    From the same article you link to

    “WHAT’S AT STAKE?

    A PricewaterhouseCoopers study into the contribution of the film and television industry to the New Zealand economy in 2008 found it:

    Added $2.54 billion.

    Created 22,000 fulltime equivalent positions.

    Created $6.1b in total gross output.

    Generated $1.2b in labour income.

    Created average salaries of $63,000, or $91,000 in the production and post-production areas. The national average salary in 2008 was $39,000.

    The study was commissioned by the NZ Federation Against Copyright Theft.”

    OH if only all workers in NZ could have their rights exploited to the same extent….

    • IrishBill 3.1

      I noted they use average salary. Most film workers are contracted and so don’t receive a salary and those that do would be the handful of key people who would be able to negotiate high salaries (which would distort the average).

      I’d be very interested to see the median income earned per hour of work for lotr workers as I suspect it would be below minimum wage.

      • Roflcopter 3.1.1

        I’d be very interested to see the median income earned per hour of work for lotr workers as I suspect it would be below minimum wage.

        You’d be wrong.

        • Colonial Viper 3.1.1.1

          IB could actually be right because not having people on employment contracts means that minimum wage regulations do not apply.

        • IrishBill 3.1.1.2

          I may well be but I’d still like to know. You seem quite sure of yourself, care to post some figures?

          • Roflcopter 3.1.1.2.1

            I’ll see if I can drag up some old payment stuff from years back.

            We were very well looked after overall.

    • Colonial Viper 3.2

      OH if only all workers in NZ could have their rights exploited to the same extent….

      comedy, you mean workers should be grateful for drippings from the lord’s table? That they should work in NZ for far inferior pay and conditions to Australians and Americans in the same industry?

      Of course you leave out the fact that workers in this industry routinely do shiftwork, work 12-16 hours per day and have no employment certainty despite that. Worker exploitation that you are callously supporting.

      This is another case of the elite 10% of the industry wanting 90% of the benefits. (As usual).

  4. Draco T Bastard 4

    So the party of business, which wants to see wages drop, is supporting businesses in lowering wages…

    Is anybody really surprised?

  5. Draco T Bastard 5

    Combination of Hobbits

    nd so at a stroke, by virtue of an arbitrary designation imposed by Jackson in an effort to shirk his responsibilities as an employer, labour relations are taken back two hundred years…

    As I’ve said before – NACT are trying to take us back a few hundred years to when the aristocracy ruled. They, of course, see themselves as the aristocracy.

  6. The Voice of Reason 6

    Finlayson’s class war position is not a surprise and it’s not unique. There is a case rumbling on in the Employment court between NZ Steel and the EPMU where NZ Steel are seeking a declaration that the union is engaged in conspiratorial price fixing when it seeks to bargain for its workers. It’s full steem ahead for a return to the Contracts Act, methinks.

  7. Roflcopter 7

    CTU trying to add legitimacy to attempted economic sabotage by an Australian organisation with no legal standing in New Zealand.

    Simply awesome!

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      I can see how speaking out against wealthy corporate decision makers trying to keep the whole pie for themselves, leaving only crumbs for workers, could be seen by the wealthy as an act of “economic sabotage” (against them).

      For everyone else it is simply a matter of standing up for minimum employment conditions for fellow NZ workers. Maybe you should try it.

      • Roflcopter 7.1.1

        leaving only crumbs for workers

        Really? Got proof of that?

        It’s the beloved Labour Party that helped define and support the flourishing film industry in NZ, setting minimum guidelines that would assist in securing overseas work.

        Nice to see you are happy to let all that be torn apart on the whim of an illegal entity constructing economic sabotage in our country.

        • IrishBill 7.1.1.1

          I think you may need to provide some proof of your own assertions up the thread before you start demanding proof from others.

      • Bored 7.1.2

        Thanks Viper,

        The RWNJs sem to think that it is the correct course of action to push down wages and conditions across the board because:
        1. All boats rise on a rising tide…absolute crap theory as one person (Jackson) gets to float high whilst the rest of the boats sink lower into the mud.
        2. “Capital will go where ever it will get the best returns”…..another crap theory as if Jackson went to the cheapest place they would soon be too busy and would put up the price…more importantly if capital efficiency were the case we as a nation might as well just shut down.

        Myself, I for one resent Jackson taking my tax dollars as his industry was incubated and now saying he will take the resultant capital offshore. Great film maker and social shit head….you only need to look at what he did to divert a river without consents at his Wairarapa mansion to realise that he thinks he is above the rest of us.

        • Colonial Viper 7.1.2.1

          I bet PJ is upping the private security he uses as this issue leaks out. Walled compounds for the wealthy eh.

          • Bored 7.1.2.1.1

            Its the same as gated communities, we know where the bastards are, and they may be forced to stay in.

  8. tsmithfield 8

    There are probably plenty of people out there who would love to be in a movie and would even offer to act for free for the chance.

    If I was Jackson, I would probably go to those people. Would probably unearth heaps of new talent in the process.

    • Tiger Mountain 8.1

      Great idea smithy-“Scabbits” just what we need. In this age of internships and working for nothing it would not surprise me though.

      • Bored 8.1.1

        Glad you mentioned “internships”, last time I was at parliament some of the MPs had “interns”….I did not ask as to the status of there remuneration. Then I was looking at the Dom and saw a link to “journalism internships”…unpaid shit work that cuts the costs for employers on the promise of a “job”….its just bollocks.

        • Vicky32 8.1.1.1

          “last time I was at parliament some of the MPs had “interns”…”
          Oh how American we are!
          Deb

    • Kaplan 8.2

      I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that would love to do your job, and for half the salary/wages you receive. If I was your boss I’d go to those people. Could probably unearth some real talent in the process.

  9. Bill 9

    Why is Nat Radio uncritically broadcasting Finlayson’s bullshit about independent contractors being unable to enter into a CEA? Is there a problem with calling bullshit on bullshit? I mean, that would be satisfying any remit to inform wouldn’t it? Which they patently aren’t doing at the moment.

    In my mind they should broadcast Finlayson but expose the disingenuous nature of his comment.

    Easy.

  10. The Voice of Reason 10

    Filthy, nasty scabbitsses! We hates them!

  11. Supermaorifella 11

    Loved this comment on the herald website:

    The Code of Practice for the Engagement of Cast in the New Zealand Screen Production Industry – known within the industry as the ‘Pink Book’.

    Crew who work on movies have what is known as the ‘Blue Book’.

    These are both guidelines and negotiated in good faith between all the industry bodies and further more they have worked well for years.

    This dispute has nothing to do with actors, it’s all about the Aussies. Mind you actors are very good at taking direction.

    • Swampy 11.1

      It is the MEAA as the NZ represented union demanding a collective agreement as Labour gave to unions in 2004 the preeminent right to do this.

      http://www.employment.org.nz/ERA%20Amendment%2024Mar07%5B1%5D.pdf
      “From the perspective of some employer groups however, the changes were far
      more significant than even the introduction of the original Act (Tritt, 2004), introducing
      major constraints and requirements on employers’ behaviour and creating a bias
      towards collective bargaining and union membership.”

      This is just the latest example of a union trying to use this law to force a collective agreement to be negotiated where they couldn’t make such a demand before. Notably this particular argument didn’t come up on the previous films, they must have been made before the law change came into force.

      As you can see by reading the history of this legislative process (see link) dating from 1999 the original attempt to bring in this law in 2000 was dropped because of widespread opposition yet Labour simply ignored the similar opposition that they got when they pushed it through in 2004.

      Employment Relations Amendment Act (No 2) 2004 No 86, Public Act

      12 New section 33 substituted

      The principal Act is amended by repealing section 33, and substituting the following section:

      “33 Duty of good faith requires parties to conclude collective agreement unless genuine reason not to

      “(1) The duty of good faith in section 4 requires a union and an employer bargaining for a collective agreement to conclude a collective agreement unless there is a genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds, not to.

      “(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), genuine reason does not include—

      “(a) opposition or objection in principle to bargaining for, or being a party to, a collective agreement; or

      “(b) disagreement about including in a collective agreement a bargaining fee clause under Part 6B.”

  12. grumpy 12

    If it’s true that Chadwick and Locke are behind this, then it’s good news for National in the next election. National should just let this take it’s course, lose the film to overseas and then just blame the unions and their political backers. They’ll be in power for decades.
    Even more than the teachers, there is absolutely no public support for the CTU on this.

    • Roflcopter 12.1

      Yup, the CTU will be happy they backed an illegal overseas organisation promoting economic sabotage in our country, in trying to win this, which could result in billions in lost spendings and the loss of 000’s of jobs.

      For the people!!!

      Simply awesome, the CTU is so clever.

      • Colonial Viper 12.1.1

        Rich asset wealthy decision makers always consider it economic sabotage against themselves personally when workers resist their efforts to take all of the pie just to leave crumbs on the table for everyone else.

  13. tsmithfield 13

    The thing is that actors who are truly famous and talented have little need for a union as they tend to command their own price.

    Therefore, it seems to me that those who feel they do need a union are probably mostly wannabes with little in the way of exceptional talent anyway. So these actors might struggle to get a role in a Jackson movie.

    Thats the thing about movies. The wage disparity from the top to the bottom is enormous. I am aware of movies that have gone to the Cannes festival where the budgets have been too tight to pay any of the actors. Still hasn’t stopped them from being quite good movies though.

    So it seems to me that actors are likely to fall into one of three groups:

    The truly famous who get paid huge amounts.
    Those who are looking for a break and would be willing to work for nothing to get noticed.
    Those in the middle who are mediocre and feel they need a union to help them get more.

    • Ron 13.1

      Smithy – you’re taking the poiss, right?

      Yes – wage disparity from the top to the bottom is enormous. But it has nothing to do with “talent”.

      Yes – truly famous and bankable = ask your price. Everyone else is the same “other” boat

      The industry has traded for years on the idea that “letting” you work on a film is giving you an “opportunity”. Work for a pittance, they say, because it’s an opportunity to get known.
      Have a look at the low budget “films that have gone to Cannes”.
      How many careers are made from them? How many ACTORS careers? You’ll find not many.
      Any actor will tell you stories of working on some up and coming director’s film for nought on the promise of a profile and an opportunity. Most will also tell you about their “mates” the directors who the got jobs in advertising, televivion (or more rearely the film inductry) and forgot all about the people who worked on their films for goodwill.

      Let’s do that for all industries, shall we? Doctors? Teachers?

      Get a grip

    • Maynard J 13.2

      The thing is that actors who are truly famous and talented have little need for a union as they tend to command their own price.

      (Aren’t Kidman and co part of the union? Your fundamental point is correct. Given the imbalance in power between employers and employees, those rare 0.0001% or people who hold more power in the relationship can command their own price.)

      Therefore, it seems to me that those who feel they do need a union are probably mostly wannabes with little in the way of exceptional talent anyway.

      (Maybe they’re just people looking to act for a living, and want a wage that equates with a living so they can support their families. Maybe you’re just being obnoxius for sport, or you’re just a genuinely unpleasant and uncaring individual.)

      So these actors might struggle to get a role in a Jackson movie.

      (If they would struggle for any roles, is it a problem if they refuse to work with Jackson… Your comment implies that they’re not needed – if so what is this whole debate about? Utterly illogical)

      Thats the thing about movies. The wage disparity from the top to the bottom is enormous. I am aware of movies that have gone to the Cannes festival where the budgets have been too tight to pay any of the actors. Still hasn’t stopped them from being quite good movies though.

      (Yes, the ‘doing it for the love of it’ argument. I suppose you have to fit your lines in somewhere. Irrelevant when the budget is several million, dont you think?)

      So it seems to me that actors are likely to fall into one of three groups:

      The truly famous who get paid huge amounts.
      Those who are looking for a break and would be willing to work for nothing to get noticed.
      Those in the middle who are mediocre and feel they need a union to help them get more.

      (Yes, those who have ‘made it’ and get vast sums of money, those who want to ‘make it’ and will be subservient and accept hardship in order to do so, and those who will stand up for themselves and make a living out of it, and get called mediocre by charming folk such as yourself.)

  14. Francisco Hernandez 14

    Guys,

    I don’t think the issues are as clear as you folks are making it out to be.

    http://gordoncampbell.scoop.co.nz/2010/09/29/gordon-campbell-on-the-trade-unions-vs-the-hobbit/

    http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,2731,hard-news-hobbit-wars.sm

    I’d also like to caution agaist an instinctive urge to side with trade unions. Don’t ge me wrong – I love trade unions, I think they’re fantastic and I’ve been elected to serve in the executive of one but they don’t always get it right. Especially in a case like this you have to look at all the facts(which are unclear) before you decide in a situation. I don’t wanna see standard devolve to the echo-chamber circle-jerk that is kiwiblog…

    Catchpa: facts (which are indispute)

    • Salsy 14.1

      We should be discussing the threats and opportunities of the industry unionising, put down the pitchforks and stop spreading hatred of Peter Jackson.

      I havent heard/read a single complaint of workers in any of Jacksons films being underpaid, undervalued, exploited etc – and certainly dont get the impression that we have a serious issue within the NZ film industry with thousands of vulnerable workers in unteneble conditions requiring a union in order to protect them. The New Zealand film Industry has worked thus far within its own culture, a non-unionised system with a booklet of rules – seemingly working quite well – able to produce low budget films gaining exceptional international repsonse – BOY and This way of life, two examples of late. Would these films be being made AT ALL in a unionised industry and were the workers on these films disgruntled, exploited, underpaid?

      Suddenly theres a whiff of BIG money and a non-Kiwi union steps in. With potentially 2 to 3 thousand new members at AUD$300 per year, one can only begin to wonder if this is an issue for workers rights, or really the money/power grab Jackson suggested it was.

    • IrishBill 14.2

      If you read my post you’ll see that I’m addressing the issue of independent contractor status vs employee status. This is about employment law, not about Jackson in particular.

      I’ve reas both Campbell’s piece and Brown’s post. The first finishes by pointing out that the wages and conditions should be better the second is a weird assortment of anti-meaa gossip, a rather strange argument that because he accepts lower rates than other freelancers film workers shouldn’t be paid better than they are and some “I’m not anti-union” hedging. Frankly I would have expected something better, more factually based and less condescending from him.

  15. Francisco Hernandez 15

    I realize that now Irish – but there’s still an undertone of “Fuck the Rich Prick Jackson” and “Let’s side with the Poor Oppressed Workers” which is a fair enough thing to do and certainly an instinct I found myself what with being left-wing but we have to realize that the Mnats (Maori National Act) are at fault here.

  16. Bobby J 16

    The government sought legal advice from the crown law office. That advice happened to agree with what Peter Jackson was arguing. How does that constitute ‘backing jackson?’

    • The Voice of Reason 16.1

      They are backing Jackson because they believe that all workers should be dependant contractors. Remember the Contracts Act? The question Finlayson asked was designed to get an answer that supported Jackson’s position. Thats how lawyers work, Bobby. Never ask a question you don’t know the answer to.

      • Swampy 16.1.1

        Remember the Contracts Act? Changed in 2004 to force an employer to enter a collective agreement:

        http://www.ers.dol.govt.nz/publications/pdfs/era%20_2004_amendments.pdf

        Original 2000 Act Section 33:

        33 Duty of good faith does not require concluded collective agreement

        The duty of good faith in section 4 does not require a union and an employer
        bargaining for a collective agreement—
        (a) to agree on any matter for inclusion in a collective agreement; or
        (b) to enter into a collective agreement.

        Employment Relations Amendment Act 2004 substitutes new section 33:

        33 Duty of good faith requires parties to conclude collective agreement unless
        genuine reason not to

        (1) The duty of good faith in section 4 requires a union and an employer bargaining
        for a collective agreement to conclude a collective agreement unless there is a
        genuine reason, based on reasonable grounds , not to.
        (2) For the purposes of subsection (1), genuine reason does not include—
        (a) opposition or objection in principle to bargaining for, or being a party to, a
        collective agreement; or
        (b) disagreement about including in a collective agreement a bargaining fee
        clause under Part 6B.

  17. BLiP 17

    I know! Lets run the film industry the same way we’re trying to run the RWC.

  18. the second is a weird assortment of anti-meaa gossip, a rather strange argument that because he accepts lower rates than other freelancers film workers shouldn’t be paid better than they are

    Eh? I’m not aware of saying anything of the kind.

    and some “I’m not anti-union” hedging. Frankly I would have expected something better, more factually based and less condescending from him.

    Oh, whatever. I was wary of even commenting in this thread, given its tone, but I’m just not buying your demonisation of Jackson.

    For years, screen actors in New Zealand have been paid as contractors. Up until 2005 (when the MEAA took over Actors’ Equity) Spada and Actors’ Equity re-negotiated its’ standard pay and conditions annually. Spada approached AE/MEAA 18 months ago to try and update the Pink Book, but the union refused, presumably unwilling to validate the contractor model. Which I guess they have a right to do — but it’s not the producers who are trying to shift the goalposts.

    I have friends on both side of the argument, and I actually think the statement out of this week’s meeting was reasonable and will hopefully lead to some sort of compromise. By contrast, the statement drafted by the MEAA’s Simon Whipp ordering a guild members’ boycott was cynical and dishonest. (For goodness sake, the union has been directing people to a paper from another MEAA member which explicitly disavows the statement’s repeated claim that The Hobbit is a “non-union production”.) I’m not entirely sure the SAG’s motives are pure in this, given the high priority that guild places on preventing film productions leaving the US. I still can’t fathom the MEAA’s behaviour in allowing itself to be struck off the NZ register of of incorporated societies. As Gordon Campbell notes, AE hasn’t exactly covered itself in glory recently.

    I have read, and sought advice on, the advice from Simpson Grierson. It does suggest ways in which the producers could strike a collective price with a group of contractors, but they’re all a bit tenuous. I hope this can be sorted out fairly. But I’m fucked if I’m going to join you in declaring class war over it.

    • Blighty 18.1

      “But I’m fucked if I’m going to join you in declaring class war over it.”

      Russell. You’re in the class war and you’re fighting for your side.

      • the sprout 18.1.1

        yeah, reminded me a bit of “politics should be kept out of sport” 😆

      • Colonial Viper 18.1.2

        Not sure why the elite and their agents insist that there is no class war going on and that they are not engaged in one. Probably because they’d be royally ****’ed when the masses of people cottoned on.

    • IrishBill 18.2

      Of course the producers aren’t trying to shift the goalposts. The goalposts are exactly where the producers want them. That’s the kind of unthinking conservatism that is used against every progressive change.

      As for your comments about the “tone” of this thread, I’m saddened to see you trying to take the high-ground as if your fact-free post was some kind of reasonable objective response to this dispute.

      I’m also disappointed to see you again focusing on the “anti-union” claim as if it is some integral part of the debate that fundementally discredits the MEAA’s position. I note you have not similarly focused on Peter Jackson’s equally fallacious claim that workers cannot be employed on fixed term or casual agreements – a statement that is far more objectively untrue and indicative of political motive than a member’s opinion about whether or not the union claims Jackson is anti union.

      Rather than quoting industry gossip about the MEAA’s reputation or repeating what Gordon Campbell has said why don’t you state clearly whether or not you believe people that want to work as employees covered by basic employment law should be made to work as independent contractors? It’s a pretty simple question.

    • BLiP 18.3

      How come the Union has to play fair and be whiter than snow but the employers don’t?

    • Swampy 18.4

      So it was in 2005 that they changed their tune? That was when Labour changed the law so they could demand a collective contract as a preeminent right. How many industrial disputes have there been since then due to this change I wonder?

  19. Harpoon 19

    Why doesn’t the union take a case under S.6 of the Employment Relations Act — definition of employee.

    IANALB essentially, the Act trumps whatever the employer wants to call the person doing the work. It dosn’t matter if the employer calls them a contractor, service supplier, preferred tenderer, indentured labourer, slave, servant, son, ‘boy’, whatever; if the relationship is one of employer/employee as defined under the Act, then the employee can claim to be protected by the Act.

    • IrishBill 19.1

      The problem with that is it would take legal action for every single employment relationship. That’s a lot of legal costs.

    • The Voice of Reason 19.2

      No point going to court on that particular question. They’re not employees, they’re independent contractors, coz that’s the way Sauron likes ’em. They would be better off as employees for sure, but I’m not sure that Actor’s Equity is even asking for that much freedom. I think they are suggesting a standard set of base conditions for their members, whatever the contractual arrangements finally end looking there.

      That sounds fair and reasonable to me, but then, I don’t own a private plane.

  20. Carol 20

    Penny Ashton on Nat Rad Panel is just sounding off about the “lies” in the media, and as an actor says they are just asking to talk and have been turned down. She said it’s not about the Aussie Union, but what the NZ union & its actors want. And she is angry – called PJ the “biggest bully boy there is”.

    And she says more about what they ACTUALLY want. Recommended to listen to when it goes online.

  21. Carol 21

    Penny Ashton and Chris Trotter on The Panel are also talking about the Commerce Act. Apparently the actors are being told that they are independent/individual contractors and that if they get together to agree pay, they are being like supermarkets colluding on price fixing. Trotter says that is how the Commerce Act works, but that the actors COULD be employed on fixed term contracts etc.

    Hamish Keith is now talking. Keith says it’s not just the Aussie union – it’s all the unions internationally, and The Hobbit would run into the same complaints from them in eastern Europe or where ever. Keith is asking all concerned to pull back, talk and calm down a bit. Underlying this, Keith says we don’t have a tax break that attracts films here.

  22. Russell. You’re in the class war and you’re fighting for your side.

    Okay, thanks. I’ll withdraw from this now.

    • IrishBill 22.1

      I guess, it’s easy to leave in faux offence than engage in the argument. It’s a shame I’ll never get to know what you think about the employment issue at the heart of this dispute.

      • Neil 22.1.1

        It’s a shame I’ll never get to know what you think about the employment issue at the heart of this dispute.

        yes it certainly is a shame but the repsonsibility for that lies with you and not RB. He’s stated his views clearly only to be met with the Standard’s usual set of insults. I’m relieved that the Standard has much less conection to the union movement than you would like us believe.

        And a bit of advice, if you want to condescend to him you’ll have to apply a few more brain cells. I know, I’ve tried and you really have to keep your wits about you or you’ll very quickly look like a fool.

        • Colonial Viper 22.1.1.1

          The elites are waging a class war against New Zealanders and you are worried about harsh language on The Standard?

          I suggest you get over it, the Left is getting staunch and going on the march.

        • IrishBill 22.1.1.2

          He’s not stated his views clearly at all. And frankly I’m tired of the kind of patronising liberal elitism your comment is couched in. It’s generally a cowardly attempt to sit on the fence while pretending to be above the fray and it is fundamentally anti-progressive.

          • Neil 22.1.1.2.1

            I’d be interested to know just how many of the brave anonymous Standard posters are actually union members.

            • IrishBill 22.1.1.2.1.1

              Every single one of them.

              Edit: except one who isn’t working at the moment

              • Neil

                how would we know? You brave people keep your identities hidden. Perhaps you could detail your union connections. It being the class war and all.

            • IrishBill 22.1.1.2.1.2

              As for our anonymity, I have to say for myself I have no interest in becoming some kind of minor NZ internet celebrity. Blogging is a small part of my life and I like to keep it that way. But if you want to make something more of it than that you’re welcome to. Or you could try running an argument that didn’t rely on ad hom. Are you capable of doing that?

              • IrishBill

                Thought not.

                • Neil

                  cheers, I was looking for that. the brave champions of the working class are so shy about their union connections, or lack thereof.

                  • IrishBill

                    Take a week off tough guy.

                    • Salsy

                      OMG are you banning someone because they dont agree with you? What the fuck has happened to the standard? Where is the democracy in that?

                      IrishBill: read the policy. Your mate didn’t.

                    • Neil

                      you’ve just made my day, in only a few moves.

                      IrishBill: if that’s all it takes you really need to get a life.

                    • The Voice of Reason

                      Only a week, IB? Tough love I say! I’d have had him gone for a month just on the stupidity of someone using a pseudonym sneering at those who do the same. Honestly, hangings too good, etc.

                    • Harpoon

                      Irish, you look petulant, unfair and harsh. And I’m a progressive.

                      Was he overly rude? Abusive? He was being critical, and he was attempting to argue against your position, but your policy states you’re in favour of robust debate. I’ve just re-read the policy and can’t find justifiable grounds for a ban.

                      Just because you dislike his “patronising liberal elitism” does not make it fair to ban him. And neither should you ban him for being “cowardly” or “sit[ting] on the fence,” or “pretending to be above the fray” or even for (HORROR!!) being “fundamentally anti-progressive”.

                      IrishBill: Fair enough, I should have pointed him to the about section rather than the policy section but if a commenter’s argument relies on attacking my anonymity rather than attacking my arguments I’ll cut the argument short. This is a forum of ideas, not of identities. Because (at the risk of sounding anti-individualist) it’s the arguments that matter not who is making them. Neil’s banning had nothing to do with his political position or with my disagreeing with it. If we banned on that basis half the commenters here wouldn’t be here.

      • Craig Ranapia 22.1.2

        Who’s being pissy and previous? There’s a lengthy post (and a lively comments thread) over on Public Address – but I guess RB should just take infantile name calling around here and at Kiwibog.

        • pollywog 22.1.2.1

          hah…good that Rusty has finally seen through the toxic old asexual fruitbat from Okarito.

          but we all know his russell brownness is a delicate wee thing that needs to be stroked just so if you want to get the best from him.

          I’m almost tempted to spam his joint for old times sake, get that fire in his belly stoked again :)

  23. Graeme 23

    penny is pissed because she isnt in it, and can only get work on third rate shows like 7 days and the odd advert.

    the unions have this wrong, it is a hi jack from the aussies because our film industry is getting to big.

  24. JKing 24

    “I don’t think they’ll move to Eastern Europe as the money saved on wages would be eaten up by the difficulties of doing business there …”

    You are entirely wrong about that. From Hell, Hellboy II, The Black Dahlia, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Casino Royale, Mission Impossible, The Brothers Grimm, Prince Caspian were all shot out of Prague. Big films shot there is hugely common … and no idle threat on Jackson’s part, rather a warning of what is a very real — and common — option for the studios.

    • Tiger Mountain 24.1

      @JKing, bit of a roll call of rather questionable films. Really if Sir Jackson doesn’t play some positive role in resolving this, he should leave his knighthood at the door on his way to Prague.

      • Salsy 24.1.1

        The list above merely illustrates that huge budget films get made successfully in Eastern Europe and suffer no box office boycot as a result…

        Leave his knighthood at the door

        *cringe*

        • Tiger Mountain 24.1.1.1

          Artistic and cultural merit obviously not your thing Salsa, those responsible for “greenlighting” the above horreurs should have been shot, not the films.

    • Colonial Viper 24.2

      More corporate threats of offshoring New Zealand jobs?

      Sounds like the usual National drum beat of suppressing pay levels and racing to the bottom of international wage rates.

      *Yawn*

  25. The Voice of Reason 26

    Interesting article on why Jackson fancies Eastern Europe. Fuck art, gimme cash.

    “And because the film industry in Hungary is largely nonunionized, everyone can be employed as an independent contractor, saving on the benefits and other charges that can add 30 percent or more to labor costs in Paris, London or Los Angeles.”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/03/business/global/03iht-eastfilms.html?pagewanted=all

  26. RobertM 27

    Somewhat ironically on whats on this thread I agree only with Tsmithfield, that this is international entertainment business and in most such activities be they motor racing, cinema, novel writing or journalism only the best now get paid livable or high wages and the rest do it for love, hope or politics.
    But the debate on this blog misses the point that the real issue with Finalyson, Rosemary McLeod and Tom Scott et all is that it is a desperate display of the kiwi cultural cringe. Were so desperate to get the movie starts here, get Cruise and Paltrow and Tyler here that we’ll undersell ourselves, cut our rates, wages, offer absurd subsidies for glamour, prestige and artificial jobs. Yes the film business has been of benefit to Wellington and some industries in Taranaki and Kerry Prendergast will be doing her knitting in terror the Jackson industry will desert.
    It seems to me unlikley the Hobbit will disapear overseas as its a NZ Niche established by the Lord of Rings and pulling out would be bad publicity for the film industry even in LA. But down the track the costs of filming here will be a factor in any future production.
    By own view is we should not undercut ourselves in any professional activity and NZ rates of pay for doctors, architects, engineers, computer experts, actors and bofins should be at least close to Australia’s. That would probably mean fewer professionals but of a higher standard and and morepeople more making their own decisions and entertainment at their own expense.
    If we want film stars to come here we really need a 24 Hour all on society. A sort of society were people make it thru talent and drive and world class insight and brilliance not something old , hackneyed and totally inoffensive as the hobbit. To me the NZ film industry is really valued here because its the sort of things that gives our politicians, local government officials and diplomats credibilty in the salons and clubs of the world and I don’t know if thats a very good way to set priorities and expendure

    • jacinda 27.1

      What small country coming out of recession wouldn’t want the 2.5 billion plus of spending and the thousands of jobs it will create?

      For sure we are desperate – anyone turning that down is simply a tool……

      • Colonial Viper 27.1.1

        Have some self respect and some self value. If you don’t value yourself who the hell will.

        2.5 billion plus

        Yeah that’s the total budget for at least 9 Star Wars films you’ve just quoted, stop dreaming.

      • Maynard J 27.1.2

        jacinda, do you have any children I can pay 7 cents a day to work 18 hours making jeans? NZ needs a clothing industry, these are my terms and you’d be a tool to turn that down.

        Now, I realise that’s that’s a facetious comparison, and not reasonable. What that implies, of course, is that there is a line at which one is not a tool for turning down work. You might want to reflect on the minute fraction of the budget that will go to paying some of these folk, and why they’re tools for accepting such a tiny amount.

        You’re asking them to accept working for years on a pittance because it will be good for everyone else!

  27. Swampy 28

    This situation has come about because four years ago Labour changed the Employment Relations Act to give unions a pre-eminent right to demand a collective contract. I expect National will act to remove this right in their next term in order to restore balance in industrial negotiations.

    • The Voice of Reason 28.1

      Nope, nothing to do with that change to the Act, which just reinforces good faith behaviour in collective bargaining. You need to keep up, Swampy, Actors Equity aren’t asking for a CEA.

      • Harpoon 28.1.1

        TVOR: “Actors Equity aren’t asking for a CEA”

        Ummmm … how could they do that anyway? Actors Equity is not an incorporated society, and therefore is not a union in law, and therefore cannot negotiate a valid CEA.

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