NZ Government “Considering Suspending Employment Laws” For Hobbit

According to Gordon Campbell the NZ government is considering suspending employment laws for the duration of the filming of The Hobbit movies.

..Incredibly, the government is now talking about suspending our employment laws for the duration of the filming.  Judging by what Minister of Economic Development Gerry Brownlee was saying on RNZ this morning, the government is considering taking the draconian measures contained in our “Major Event” legislation (meant to protect the commercial interests behind the Rugby World Cup) and applying them to the 18 months period of filming The Hobbit. So, having earlier rewritten our tax laws around the shooting schedule for Lord of the Rings, we seem willing to suspend our employment laws this time around. In particular, Brownlee seems willing to circumvent the Supreme Court ruling in the Bryson case. That case established that some workers – regardless of the contracts they may have signed, or were induced to sign, defining themselves as independent contractors – will qualify for the rights and conditions of employees if it can be shown that their actual and ongoing work situation is that of an employee. Apparently, Brownlee is considering suspending that ruling…more here

Mr Campbell goes on to say that a way of describing this way of doing business, that Hollywood would understand, is “Micky Mouse.” Council of Trade Unions president Helen Kelly has criticised Peter Jackson and suggested Warner Bros may be

pushing for increased assistance from the Government, using the union as a scapegoat.

She said that rewriting employment laws to please Warner Bros ran the risk of casualising the entire workforce. “This isn’t about the employment status of these actors it’s about whether, as independent contractors, they can collectively bargain commercial contracts, and we say they can and Jackson says they can’t. “All they’ll do by changing the law is casualise a whole lot of workers, because they won’t just change it for actors, they’ll change the definition of employee for all New Zealand workers..” more here

Yesterday we asked why, despite the Attorney-General, Chris Finlayson’s letter to the studios at the end of September to

“reassure them New Zealand law rules out an expensive union-negotiated collective agreement for actors on Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit.

“legal advice from the Crown Law  Office confirmed the Commerce Act prevented The Hobbit’s producers “from entering into a union-negotiated agreement with performers who are independent contractors“. Section 30 of the act, which deals with price fixing, “effectively prohibits” such arrangements, he said.” source

protests, marches and union action still went ahead. Surely there was no need for them if the legislation was there to protect the studios – the unions would have been acting illegally?

Now it looks like the application of bad legislation may be bailed out by the misuse of another piece of poorly conceived law, intended to protect the commercial interests of the 2011 RWC –  to the detriment of all of New Zealand’s workers.

Further reading

Emails undermine studio’s claims about strikes

“Warner Bros and actors’ unions were ready to bury the hatchet at the beginning of this week but the studio was today still talking about its fear of industrial action derailing The Hobbit movies, a series of emails shows.

[the]… series of emails between Warner Bros and the Screen Actors’ Guild (SAG), sighted by NZPA, showed the two parties were discussing the wording of a press release announcing the settlement of the dispute from as early as Monday, US time. Yet this morning, New Line Cinema said in a statement that reports the boycott of The Hobbit was lifted by unions a number of days ago and that Warner Bros asked to delay this announcement were false” source

New Zealand should not prostitute itself for Hobbit

…Yesterday Otago University employment law specialist professor Paul Roth criticised the Government’s suggestion that the law could be changed to suit the producers of the Hobbit movies.

He told The Otago Daily Times said it was “business as usual”  in terms of New Zealand law-making, showing what a Third-World country the country was.

“If that’s what the Government wants to do it can do it,” he told the Otago Daily Times. But it showed that rather than being a First-World country, New Zealand was  “teetering on Third-World status and was prepared to  “basically lie back and prostitute ourselves to get more employment into this country”… more here

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One thought on “NZ Government “Considering Suspending Employment Laws” For Hobbit

  1. “There’s a streak of vindictiveness in the culture. They are so mired in the don’t-get-too-big-for-your-boots kiwi thing”
    I would say that they are in fact so vindictive about this that they cut off their noses to spite their faces to make sure someone else is not given any concessions (that would be letting the other person win, which would diminish them) and that is what they have done in this case. they become very entrenched over petty things in New Zealand and hold deep grudges. most defensive people I have ever met, they do not understand the idea of giving a little to get a lot. Can’t stand those people, tiny-minded resentful morons flattened into cow pies by the weight of the chip on their shoulders.

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