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.