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A brief point on union meetings

Written By: - Date published: 1:11 pm, October 1st, 2010 - 45 comments
Categories: Unions, workers' rights - Tags: ,

There’s a story doing the rounds today about the actors’ union denying Peter Jackson entry to a union meeting. It’s basically Jackson having a good old whine about how it just shows how unreasonable the union is being and how they won’t even talk to him.

Life must be so hard when you’re a multi-millionaire who doesn’t understand employment law.

Considering Jackson refuses to hire his staff under employment contracts and forces them all to work as independent contractors I can see why he might be a little bit confused about how these things work. So I’ll explain it really simply.

Union meetings are for union members. They’re not for employers. They’re not for “industry people”. And they’re very rarely for media.

The reasoning is simple. Union members, in order to negotiate collectively, need to have a forum where they can discuss the issues freely and openly without the employer breathing down their neck. They also need to be able to agree on a negotiating strategy without their employer finding out in advance what that strategy is. That would kind of defeat the purpose of having a strategy.

Likewise, employers don’t tend to invite union reps to sit in on management meetings about how they plan to handle contract negotiations with the union.

The place for unions and employers to negotiate is at the negotiating table, not at each other’s planning meetings.

It is a worry that Peter Jackson is so woefully misinformed about how employment relationships work, but I guess it’s what we should expect from a man who’s built his business on forcing people to work as “independent contractors” and threatens capital flight the moment his workers start organising.


45 comments on “A brief point on union meetings”

  1. david civil servant 1

    on the other trotter it would seem that if the union were serious about engaging with Jackson they would have allowed him entry for a period of time to make an address however now it looks more likely that this a union beat up

    • Juan Manuel Santos 1.1

      But that’s not what union meetings are for. They’re about workers meeting together to decide on a course of action, which their chosen representatives (elected delegates) then take to management with a democratic mandate.

      It’s not an opportunity for the employer to come in, eye-ball who’s there and attempt to guilt-trip and/or threaten workers into backing down.

      Jackson either doesn’t understand employment law or is using this as a cynical attempt to smear the union. Neither would surprise me.

    • Colonial Viper 1.2

      I love how entertainment projects destined to make one hundred-two hundred-three hundred million dollar profits for the corporations, there is no money in the kitty to give workers minimum wage protections and other basic entitlements.

      • Roflcopter 1.2.1

        Actually, there is and they were already negotiated for this film. And they were getting paid well above market rates.

        But don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story, eh?

        • Juan Manuel Santos

          I’d be cautious about Jackson’s figures on this after he’s lied or wilfully misunderstood everything else so far. Touching to see how readily you accept his unverifiable figures as “facts” though.

          • Roflcopter

            Ummm, some of your own beloved union members are saying this, on condition of not revealing who they are.

            • Tigger

              Rolf – care to elaborate with facts?

              • grumpy

                But, from the Herald article, the union allowed in non-union actors – and even allowed them to vote!

                • bbfloyd

                  G.. do you not understand what a fool you make yourself look when you quote a third rate newspaper like the herald..you know, of course, who pays for the “news” they print, don’t you?

              • felix

                Don’t hold your breath – he’s been claiming to have detailed info for days but strangely can’t seem to produce any.

            • tea

              In breaking news I can prove everything on condition I don’t- source this constant crap or stfu.

  2. The Baron 2

    He could also be “whining” because people are trying to destroy his project, and the jobs it creates, but he has not yet had an opportunity to sit down and talk about it and try find a workable solution…

    Sorry, I forgot only Union fanboy comments allowed.

    This petty point scoring is getting out of hand. Can we get over all this crap and actually find some way to have the movies made here, please?

    • The Voice of Reason 2.1

      Bullshit, Baron. Jackson has refused to meet with the union reps and he has no right to try and crash their members’ meeting. What an obnoxious bully he turns out to be. If the movie goes overseas, it’ll be because he’s cocked up the organisation of it. He’s already fluffed around so much he’s lost a director, now he wants kiwi workers to subsidise the making of it.

      Anytime he gets off his high horse and sits down with the union, the problem can be solved and the movie made. Till then, Jackson remains the reason the Hobbit is at risk.

      • Colonial Viper 2.1.1

        I’m coming around to the idea that this is not so much about the money, which realistically would be not that much more in the scheme of things for The Hobbit. But that it is about trying to prevent an increased level of worker organisation in the NZ entertainment industry.

        Such a change would permanently (or at least for the long term) shift the balance of power more towards local workers for every future production project now on the cards.

        And it is probably that ongoing prospect that Jackson et al are finding unpalatable.

    • jagilby 2.2

      You forget Baron that the Union only endorses job creation when it results in more Union subs being paid.

  3. burt 3

    Perhaps he thought that since the unions demand access to places of employemnt whenever they want and that they always bang on about good faith that he would be able to join the meeting.

    • felix 3.1

      Perhaps they ruined his holiday in the 70s and he’s still crying about it.

      • grumpy 3.1.1

        Seems the NZ branch of Actor’s Equity now want to talk to Jackson. perhaps the Aussie/NZ solidarity is starting to crack?
        Also, in NZ there seems to be a dramatic difference of opinion between Auckland and Wellington members.

        • The Voice of Reason

          “Seems the NZ branch of Actor’s Equity now want to talk to Jackson.”

          FFS, grumpy, that’s how the whole thing started! They have always wanted to talk to Jackson, but he has refused to meet them. What you haven’t grasped is that AE is affiliated to the MEAA. They are, in effect, the same entity. Having tried locally to meet with Sauron, sorry, Jackson, they then asked the larger organisation to help when he wouldn’t front. Hence the involvement of the MEAA. It’s not a problem to be solved, grumpy, its what unions do. Solidarity, eh.

      • mcflock 3.1.2

        Perhaps he misheard when an elderly actor yelled “You shell out not for our parts!”

      • burt 3.1.3

        Bully, it still hurts. 🙁

        But seriously, the lack of good faith is rightly comparable and I’m happy you made that association yourself.

  4. Sweetd 4

    In unrelated news, Peter Jackson’s studio is on fire in Wellington.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      In which the building burnt to the ground while Jackson negotiated individual contracts with each of the firefighters attending.

      • comedy 4.1.1

        Unfortunately all the actors also perished as they were unable to exit the building without union approval…….

        • The Voice of Reason

          Luckily Jackson realised the actors’ deaths were a clear breach of their contractual obligations and was able to cancel their insurance policies before they could blow the no claims bonus.

          • comedy

            No Australian actors were harmed in the incident according to the MEAA.

            (he he this is fun, let’s see if we can attract the ire of the sysop)

  5. Ten Miles Over 5

    goodbye movie industry, I can’t say I’ll even notice you’re gone.

  6. BigSigh 6

    The posts on this website seem *extremely* one sided. So far no one has explained why the NZ actors haven’t actually formed a union IN new zealand and tried to negotiate. Seems this is all an Australian union with nothing to lose and everything to gain and actually very few members in NZ, and its not even a legit union in NZ… sooo… explain please how PJ is the bad ass in all this but there’s no criticism against this aussie union, or against why the actors are so disorganised?

    Seriously, they should’ve got organised a long time ago, BEFORE this started, then rather than flat out call a boycott, first raise the issue, THEN if no satisfactory response call for the boycott.

    Please, please can someone explain why this other side of the issue is somehow considered completely OK behaviour?

    [lprent: Read the about. Learn about the site. While you’re at it read the policy as well. It will help prevent my having to waste time explaining the bleeding obvious to yet another idiot luser. ]

  7. BigSigh 7

    Errr… that’s a bit harsh… and neither seem to explain this… I guess I’ll just have to stick with the limited view the MSM gives me then which seems to paint the union pretty badly in this situation (and fairly so).

    captcha: forget [it]

    • Eddie 7.1

      Lynn understandably gets tired of explaining the bleeding obvious to people who haven’t read the about or the policy. This is a labour movement blog, it’s not required to provide ‘balance’ and has no pretence of doing so. You come hear to read perspectives from the left. Other perspectives are available in great abundance elsewhere. Try http://www.kiwiblog.co.nz or http://www.nzherald.co.nz

  8. Craig Ranapia 8

    Which begs the question why they were quite happy to admit non-union members (and I know that for a fact) to both meetings in Auckland and Wellington. Then again, when I belonged to a union it wasn’t run by clown school drop outs.

    Hope I didn’t use too many big words there, Eddie.

    • Eddie 8.1

      Sometimes a union will allow non-union employees who are considering joining the union. Often it’s necessary in the early stages of the campaign. That’s non inconsistent with the post. Union meetings are not for employers.

      • Craig Ranapia 8.1.1

        Eddie: You’re simply being disingenuous — non-union members were admitted to both meetings. A simple matter of fact you either weren’t aware of, or failed to mention because it didn’t fit your thesis. And it’s too cute for words to pretend there’s no difference between a semi-public meeting organised by a union, and a strategy session. If The Standard to going to run around calling Jackson a liar, you folks really should be a little more careful with the “truthiness” yourselves.

        • The Voice of Reason

          The words ‘semi public’ suggests you understand that means control over attendance, so you get that the organisers have the right to allow or deny entry. The difference between Jackson and invited guests is that he is the boss. It’s a union meeting, and the union have every right to tell him to piss off. The minute workers get to attend board meetings, I’ll reassess my position.

          • Craig Ranapia

            Voice of Reason: I also understand the difference between what happened last night and an AGM, executive meeting, or a strategy session ahead of contract negotiations. Funny how you don’t — and Eddie seems quite happy to fudge that not-exactly-trivial distinction.

            • The Voice of Reason

              Funny how you don’t know about union meetings, Craig. They’re defined in the Act.

  9. Pascal's bookie 9

    “Hope I didn’t use too many big words there, Eddie.”

    “Which raises the question of why…”.

    No charge, smart guy.

  10. Harpoon 10

    Is Equity a union?

    • The Voice of Reason 10.1

      Let me see … Wikipedia thinks so:

      “A trade union (British English) or labor union (American English) is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions”

      It’s funny how people who usually come here to complain about the strictures of the state seem to be saying Equity’s failure to follow bureaucratic regulation is somehow a bad thing. But then, I never thought I’d see a day when a Kiwi Prime Minister would consider the cover up of the theft of the identity of a dead baby ethically acceptable.

  11. salsy 11

    We can still be pro-labour, pro-union, pro workers rights and question the motives of the MEAA, given all the misinformation flying around, Id even go as far as to say, its actually the smart thing to do.
    This is stolen from an annonymous post: So let me get this straight.

    Equity NZ through what appears to be administrative negligence, has lost it’s legal standing as an organisation representing NZ performers.

    For more than a year they refuse to meet with SPADA, who represent all NZ producers to discuss improved working conditions for NZ actors, in accordance with the ECA and NZ labour laws.

    They demand to meet the producers of The Hobbit to discuss a collective contract negotiated by them, apparently completely oblivious to the fact that this would be illegal under the Commerce Act.

    The producers of the Hobbit point that the rates they pay have been quite generous, and are only getting better. Meanwhile Equity refuses to spell out exactly what it is they are seeking, apart from muttering about credits (?!) and unspecified terms unrelated to pay.

    If what they are asking for is so little, and the arrangement in the past have been fair, why boycott it and risk the entire shebang?

    The behavour seems self destructive, unless you look at it from the point of view of the MEAA.

    Ask yourself these questions: When was the last time a large organisation, especially an Australian one, spend money and time for completely altruistic reasons? They don’t; Just like a company their own organisational interest come first. The vast bulk of MEAA members work in Australia, what do they have to lose if they create industrial strife in NZ? = Nothing. What do they have to gain if NZ is no longer an attractive option for American, British, or indeed Australian production finance? They keep productions in Australia, and Australian performers nests feathered.

    So looking at the disorganised and bizarre behaviour surround this and other issues, either Equity and MEAA are complete idiots about the law and reality of the territory they are working in, or more likely, the MEAA cares far more about stopping runaway production from coming to NZ than it does about NZ actors. Why else would they refuse to meet with SPADA and make an honest attempt to draw up more favourable guidelines for actors?

    It’s difficult to watch a bunch of nice actors, who apparently have no sense of the bigger picture, being manipulated to act against their own interests like this.

    • Daveo 11.1

      I agree that Actors Equity and the MEAA have been pretty hamfisted of their handling of things, but your conspiracy theories about the Australians are way off.

      Aussie unions work with Kiwi unions all the time. Just recently Australian unions put in the hard yards to help EPMU and MUNZ members achieve trans-tasman pay parity on offshore oil rigs.

      In fact the big bad MEAA that you seem to think is intent on destroying NZ actually works with the EPMU on journalist issues to the point that the two unions produce a joint magazine for journalists that’s largely funded and produced on the Aussie end.

      It’s not just the Aussies either. The SFWU has works closely with the SEIU in the US and the two unions jointly ran the CleanStart campaign.

      Unions aren’t businesses, they are workers’ organisations based on the principles of solidarity and collective action. There are countless examples of unions helping each other out across national boundaries.

      If you want to look at motives here I’d start asking why Jackson is so keen to pretend he has to employ his staff as independent contractors and why he keeps making shit up in the media when he really should know better.

  12. Tiger Mountain 12

    What a motley crew of non unionists, ex barely unionists and union opponents attempting to comment here, a pathetic display indeed.

    • comedy 12.1

      Yes how dare anyone apart from a union spokesperson (approved spokesperson) offer comment.

      Crikey next the fuckers here will be offering opinions on politics without being members of parliament.

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