Gerry Brownlee: The “employers’ representative”

Radio NZ reports

…Minister of Economic Development Gerry Brownlee indicated the Government may be prepared to clarify employment laws to try to keep the production in New Zealand. 

He told Morning Report the Government would consider the issues raised in a Supreme Court case. 

“In other words, can we determine the difference between an employee and a contractor in a way that makes clear that the sort of industrial action that has been threatened by the union can’t be carried through.” 

Mr Brownlee said New Zealand actors need to distance themselves from the Australian-based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which is linked to New Zealand Actors’ Equity. 

Let’s play that again, Gerry: 

“…actors need to distance themselves from the Australian-based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which is linked to New Zealand Actors’ Equity” 

If an employer or an employer’s representative made a statement like this, it would be in serious breach of prohibition of duress under the Employment Relations Act. But Gerry can say it anyway – unless he’s acting as the “employer’s representative”, which maybe he is. It sure sounds like it. Perhaps we need an Official Information Act request about his communications to and from Warner Bros to determine that. 

The law as to who is an employee and who is a contractor is very clear. It has been addressed and determined by the final arbiter of New Zealand law – the Supreme Court. 

Gerry Brownlee is cynically manipulating this industrial dispute to attempt to further undermine the rights of employees, and if Gordon Campbell is correct (I couldn’t find another reference), Brownlee is even threatening to use the anti-democratic Major Events Management Act to do so without reference to Parliament. 

Mainstream working New Zealanders have a lot to fear from this Government, which is increasingly attempting to dump the impact of its failure to revive our economy on ordinary working New Zealanders who just want a fair go. Let’s all hang together, and not let bad employers and their Government “representatives” pick us off – one, by one.

63 thoughts on “Gerry Brownlee: The “employers’ representative”

  1. This is classic example of closing off borders. Companies, not just governments, can learn a lot from history. Whenever a great nation has closed off it boarders it has failed.

    In essence, Gerry is doing the same thing. For whatever reason he feels that that the channels of business need closed off. Poor judgment.

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  2. if Gordon Campbell is correct (I couldn’t find another reference), Brownlee is even threatening to use the anti-democratic Major Events Management Act to do so without reference to Parliament.

    Campbell is incorrect. That Act hs no such powers. All it lets the government do is ban “ambush marketing” (defined as “anything that isn’t for an event sponsor”) near stadiums, and apply draconian penalties to streakers.

    The Rugby World Cup Enabling Act, OTOH…

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  3. Yeah… it stands to reason that Brownlee will get it wrong. Doesn’t matter what he does about anything, he seems to be a perfect negative indicator. Wish I could use him as a stock picker…

    BJ

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  4. Let’s play that again, Frog:

    “…actors need to distance themselves from the Australian-based Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), which is linked to New Zealand Actors’ Equity”

    The one bit you didn’t bold is the most important.

    The Australians have have caused problems in their own industry, and now they want to trash ours as a damage limitation exercise.

    Its a good ploy too, if they can pull it off; this isn’t a business with enough work to go around, there are winners and losers, and the Autralians have nothing the lose, as this action is seen as a Kiwi action. Smart thinking by the Australian union people.

    As to the Brownlee issue, you are being very selective in what you say, and doing a huge disservice to the majority of the Kiwi film industry, who are very happy being contractors. By this I mean the craftspeople, and the named big-time actors.

    I expect Bownlee will change the law so that the custom and practice of the industry can continue. The judgement you linked to is quite informative in that respect.

    However, Bryson worked for 3 foot 7 for 17 months before being terminated, so him being classed as an employee under the existing definition of the law is hardly surprising, when custom and practice is ignored.

    On that same vein, most actors are involved in a production for relatively short time, just the shooting phase, and that is usually measured in weeks, and all actors dont have to turn up every day, and most are interchangeable, so in my opinion the judgement will have no affect on the actor arrangements. If they have to become employees, then the existing 90 day provision (suitably misused) will cover the majority of them. So theres no win here for the malcontents.

    The minority of the industry is probably the biggest group, the extras and bit parters, who (being polite) do not have a full time career in the business. New Zealand is no different to Hollywood in this respect, go to a Starbucks in LA, and you’ll be served by an actor. Almost all actors dont have a full time career, and thus have “real” jobs, or are supported finanically by some method other than acting.

    And as for Bryson: For someone with twenty years in the industry, his IMDB credits is a very short list, and I’d be fairly certain it wont be getting much longer.

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  5. Brownlee doesn’t need any act – doesn’t he have the divine right of earthquakes?

    BJ

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  6. yea – he’s already got a full time job of absorbing quakes in chch (a gravitonne)- one thing at a time Gerry eh…..eh….

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  7. I have a teenage daughter and I have observed that she and her friends love creating “drama” from the most trivial comments and throw away remarks. They instantly jump to conclusions and over-react and their dramatic stands appear to give substance to things that have no substance at all. They then use the highly charged situation they have created to force an issue to their own advantage as people bend over backwards to placate them. I have observed many adult men and women metamorphosize into drama queens over the past week.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2 (+8)

  8. “Standover Tactics” and home invasions are the new fashion in Crime.
    It’s the new GST’s legacy – or one of them

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  9. Brownlee doesn’t need to tell actors who they should distance themselves from; I think that Brownlee could mind his own damned business.

    Since when was he their keeper?

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  10. The government is pushing the line that there is a threat to jobs from foreign unions, and how the local solution is even our unions being isolated from international solidarity and constrained by even more anti-union law domestically.

    And people who fall for the conspiracy theory that its some foreign plot to sabotage our industry/our nation.

    This could be 1975 and the dancing cossack ads …

    And look how the right are falling into the same nationalist lather that Muldoon use to exploit …

    All we need is to blame the miniatures fire in Wellington on those Aussies and we could even cite the Reichstag fire of …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1 (+1)

  11. Kiwipolitico has some thoughtful comments along the lines of “if there was already a strong NZ actor’s union then a bunch of troublemakers from Australia wouldn’t have been able to come here and make a hash of it all”

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  12. Watch this amazing video about the rally tomorrow – it’s only a minute but it is well worth watching constructed by the talented technician Hunter Abbey.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tu49X4EsT0&feature=player_embedded#!

    Once you have been wowed by that look over the facebook event page

    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=127389750649753

    This is not anti-union, this is not taking sides, this is a rally of support for Sir Peter Jackson and Warner Brothers. There will be heaps of people in makeup, The Mayor of Wellington will be speaking, there will be bands, Hiremaster has donated 100s of balloons. It is going to be a great day out to show our support for the New Zealand film industry. Leave the yelling and the blame behind as this is a positive event, if you have elvin ears – wear them – you may find that you will fit in better with them :)

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  13. Oliver. Anyone who works or runs a productive business in NZ will regret the day we caved in and abrogated our rights due to blackmail from an overseas employer.
    Too many people have no idea of the history of labour unions and the benefits they gained for all of us.
    By marching they are supporting NACT’s betrayal of NZ.

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  14. Kerry,

    By marching they are supporting NACT’s betrayal of NZ.

    Lucky for all off us they have the freedom to march.

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  15. Kerry
    .

    I think that even you have to admit that those “rights” were abused to start this circus.
    .

    Again… how many blacklists of specific productions have there been? How many for productions which had no actual grievances and complaints against them?
    .

    Yeah… we’ll regret a lot of things, and there’s an opening here for NACT and WB to waltz through to make changes to the laws that most of our unions will not have imagined in their worst nightmares.

    Someone had to make that opening though, and while what is happening now has all the predictability of a Shakespearian tragedy… it wasn’t necessary and realistically was not even possible for WB or NACT to stage manage the conditions for it into existence by themselves.

    As for this march… I think it will be a rather neutral affair.

    BJ

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  16. The question may be whether WB dislikes Whipp enough to take the Hobbit out in order to totally disgrace and remove him. I have no doubt at this point that he personally is a very large part of the problem they perceive.

    BJ

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  17. No BJ they were not. Negotiation was concluded days before.
    There were similar threats to withdraw to get tax breaks with LOTR. Or have you forgotten.

    If NACT hadn’t had this one to spin they would have found something else.

    Gerrit. Nice of you to allow us that. Are you going to say we are lucky to have freedom to march now! That was also gained by a Union. The London trade guilds if I remember rightly.

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  18. Kerry,

    I said we are ALL lucky to have the freedom to march. Be it pro-workers such as todays marches or whatever the cause.

    You are suggesting they are marching FOR

    supporting NACT’s betrayal of NZ.

    All I’m saying is that at least in democratic NZL they can march.

    Much like unionists can march, as they frequently do.

    Jeez, lighten up.

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  19. No BJ they were not. Negotiation was concluded days before.

    Days before the blacklist? The events subsequent to that aren’t an issue.

    You don’t think that blacklisting this production and no other in order to secure a system of individual negotiations with each production rather than a general agreement with SPADA, was an abuse of the right to withhold labor? Given that the general agreement with the producer’s association is the model used throughout the rest of the world?

    As for the studio’s actions to get tax breaks 5 years ago, WTF does that have to do with strikes and unions? They had this deal locked in with a substantial “gift” (per DBuckley’s observation that those are required to get anything done anywhere but the sound stages in Hollywood) and no problems until Whipp pulled his club out.

    The more I study this the more angry I become. I repeat the question, where and when was the local union actually ASKED whether it was proper to strike? I have yet to see any report of them voting for this action, and as far as I know, it is against SAG rules for such things to be done without the concurrence of the local union membership.

    This whole business has the stink of something 3 days dead.

    I submit that:

    1. Whipp wanted to get a deal to unionize the NZ film industry “his” way (we know this by his own words).
    .
    2. The Producers presented a united front to require him to negotiate with SPADA, the same way that SAG negotiates with producers organizations through the rest of the world.
    .
    3. Whipp decided to use “The Hobbit” as a lever to break the producers organization. (His own words betray this motive).
    .
    4. When Jackson wouldn’t meet with him he called SAG.
    .
    5. THEN he told the NZ branch that they were “on strike”.
    .
    6. and SAG responded as a Union will, with “solidarity” and advised a blacklist against “The Hobbit” globally.
    .
    7. and the NZ branch responded as a Union will, with “solidarity” and supported the strike.
    .

    As you see, I don’t believe that the NZ actors were given the opportunity to vote on what was done. Steps 4 and 5 in this process were reversed from what they should have been, and the bit where the actors were told rather than asked if it was their decision to strike was purely wrong. I think that may even be against SAG rules.

    Everything after that is Shakespearian tragic inevitability.

    BJ

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  20. “On the boycott/bombshell. Equity has tried with a number of production companies to negotiate the terms and conditions for performers. They have all resisted with extrememly agressive responses. Tried to talk to the Hobbit as well. Turns out the Hobbit was no different except we had an amazing display of international solidarity – performers around the world that enjoy union representation and negotiations (Warners are in a 6 week negotiation with SAG as we speak), extended their solidarity to NZ performers to enjoy the same. Those foreign actors contracted to the Hobbit will be on union negotiated contracts and will be union members – luxury!…

    Apparently the banners “lift the boycott” were ready and printed for the impromptu protest last night. Some addressing the meeting new the boycott had been lifted. I have emails from Warners dated Monday I can show you if you would like to come and see them (they are confidential – but I can show you in person).

    Damaged the union movement – only if people like you dont check your facts.

    Helen””

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  21. “And what about The Hobbit?

    For a variety of reasons the board of NZ Equity decided in a telephone conference over the weekend to recommend that overseas performer unions remove any form of advice to their members not to work on The Hobbit.

    This resolution was conveyed to Warner Bros via the Screen Actors Guild. At the request of parties in the USA this decision was not made public. It had been hoped an agreed media strategy could occur.

    NZ Equity, at the time, provided a copy of the release it proposed to make to the media. This was provided via Warner Bros to the production and at the production’s request the union yesterday agreed to change the language the union had proposed to include in the release.

    “NZ Equity had agreed not to release the information to the public until all parties were ready to do so.

    However, in light of last night’s developments in Wellington, we thought it prudent that this information be made known as a matter of urgency.”

    21st October.

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  22. Kerry-This nonsense is a bit like the National Standards debacle, no matter how many times people explain the situation and the facts it is like Get Smart’s cone of silence-they appear to see the mouths moving but the messages just aren’t getting through. I think a number of dishonest and influential people are deliberately pressing a mute button.

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  23. “For a variety of reasons the board of NZ Equity decided in a telephone conference over the weekend to recommend that overseas performer unions remove any form of advice to their members not to work on The Hobbit.”

    Who decided in the first place, to recommend that overseas performer unions provide advice to their members not to work on The Hobbit?

    This is something I really REALLY would like to know. Nobody is going to say anything about it though. It almost certainly was not voted on by NZ actors… if it had we’d have been told THAT.

    because THAT would have been the actor’s choice and the responsibility for it would have been spread across the entire membership, the players involved would certainly have publicized such a fact.

    That wasn’t what happened.

    One wonders whether the board of NZ Actors Equity was even consulted BEFORE the recommendation was provided to overseas performers unions… that “for a variety of reasons” phrase could be covering anything at all.

    The facts after the blacklisting can be whatever they are… the fact OF the blacklisting is the important one.

    Whipp said it best in his little video performance.

    .not.one.word.

    No need for a “cone of silence”.

    The results to the union movement here in NZ are invidious indeed, as the escalation handed Key et.al. a large club… and there isn’t a blessed thing we can do. That Whipp should apologize and resign might help things, but I don’t see him doing that. He’s safely back in Oz.

    BJ

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  24. Bj- Warner Bros have had to deal with difficult actors for decades and if they were operating in an honest and genuine way they would do some background checking and meet with those concerned to find out who they really represent and what degree of influence they have. They would quickly discover that the blacklisting threat had no real substance (as was communicated with them) and as there was obvious national pride in filming the Hobbit in NZ they would deem the threat as relatively minor. The grandstanding is so obviously taking advantage of the situation for their own ends and the fact that even our Prime Minister is prepared to grovel at their feet is embarrassing to say the least.

    The obsession with Whipp is beyond reason as he has no real influence over NZ actors anyway. I would think Warner Bros now have more to apologize about now than him.
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4267919/The-Hobbits-whipping-boy-talks

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  25. They would quickly discover that the blacklisting threat had no real substance

    Sprout… they WERE blacklisted by SAG. That wasn’t a threat… it was an actual fact.

    Even though this was lifted very quickly once all the players recognized what was happening and why. It happened. and it is not something that happens all that often.

    I already deconstructed Whipp’s statement above, and his silence on the street before he issued it indicates just how hard he had to think to even find a way to attempt to spin his actions.

    The question of when the NZ Actors voted for the job-action remains. I repeat my assertion that if they had, that vote would have been used to deflect responsibility from the MEAA leadership. If they did not then by the rules that most unions use, the action was not justified.

    Solidarity is a good thing most times. THIS time it allowed Whipp to drag both SAG and NZ Actors Equity into meaningless confrontation with WB.

    I repeat my opinion that NZ Actors Equity would be better served as a branch of SAG independent of MEAA. As part of SAG it would have the same power to get meaningful talks… and as it would be a NZ organization it would be more aware of NZ conditions.

    BJ

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  26. Sprout: again, just a minor correction.

    Warner, as with all the Hollywood studios, has had to negotiate with the US unions for decades: the Studio Zone (the only place where movies have a right to be made) only exists because the unions negotiated it into existence decades ago.

    Everywhere else, “negotiations” are subject to the “balance of desperation” rule.

    The Hollywood fat cats are willing to allow some crumbs from their table to fall the way of other countries, and in reality, countries are desperate for those crumbs, which is why we (and other places that make movies) give the movie makers generous tax breaks.

    How desperate is that???

    How many other sectors with trillions of dollars sloshing around worldwide gets the kind of breaks many countries give to the movie makers??

    This is why the fat cats can just ignore “our” (being generous) unions. We’re the more desperate party; if we don’t want the fat cat’s money, the fat cats are entirely happy about that, they don’t need us, and they have no long term stake or investment in New Zealand. There’s loads of other places they can go with a lower hassle quotient that also give good tax breaks.

    This is not a discussion between equal parties; its between the desperate and the very laid back.

    On the economics of the benefits of film making: found The Economic Impact of the UK Film Industry (PDF, 750K) which shows how the UK views it’s inward investment (and its desperation) of the movie biz. Not read it all yet, but the headlines and summary quite interesting and relevant.

    Appendix A is a list of the desperate; countries which provide tax breaks to movie makers, and includes the USA and several states of the USA, which, as noted repeatedly, although they are in the right country, they are are outside the Studio Zone and thus need to bribe the Hollywooders to come to their state.

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  27. Bj-I don’t get it, the process you are concerned about only has historical significance now. The fact is that there is no existing boycott and I would think, in this current climate, any attempts to do something similar would see a return of the death penalty for treason. Warner Bros talk about the risk of something similar happening in the future, which is obviously serious spin.

    “This is not a discussion between equal parties; its between the desperate and the very laid back.”
    dbuckly-Yep, and it embarrasses me just how desperate we are prepared to look.

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  28. sprout says “They would quickly discover that the blacklisting threat had no real substance”

    So a boycott in place for a month, all over the world, which already cost the studio millions of dollars, and set them back weeks…….”has no substance”?

    Sprout – you are letting your ideology skew your take on reality.

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  29. The problem the studio has is that MEAA in Australia and the specific person (I doubt that there was any committee involved much less a vote by the NZ branch actors) who called SAG and had the blacklist put in place are still in the decision loop.

    They have discovered that there is an intolerable idiot who has a proven (as in he has already demonstrated the power and the willingness) ability to shut down their production through SAG which is a group they normally respect.

    He is still in the loop.

    That is the problem.

    BJ

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  30. Sprout “…Yep, and it embarrasses me just how desperate we are prepared to look.”

    Its not a look, its real: We are willing to be that desperate. Heck: I’m willing to be that desperate. $2.8bn buys a lot of desperation. That $2.8bn approaches the jewel in New Zealand’s export crown. It’s (only) 10%, but what a 10%. When the alternative is more cows and pollution, yep, I look at film with a lot of desperation.

    On the other hand, we share the desperation with a bunch of others, UK, New York (and several other states), Canada, France, the list is fairly long…

    And I think BJ may have hit the nail squarely on the head…

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  31. Photonz/Bj- I think I’ve read most stuff out there about this issue and I thought the MEAA and SAG have no current boycott or blacklisting of the Hobbit and New Zealand actors are united in supporting the movie. Helen Kelly and others have explained this is all about Warner Bros looking at the most profitable options:
    http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/sag-confirms-hobbit-blacklist-withdrawal-3845327

    What power has Whipp got in NZ?

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  32. sprout says “What power has Whipp got in NZ?”

    You need to ask this?

    He got a world-wide boycott and caused Warner Bros millions of dollars and weeks of delays.

    Your arguement that because the boycott is over there is no problem is rediculous – the damage was done weeks ago.

    If I was putting money into movie making in NZ, and someone had resorted to such extreme action,
    a/ I wouldn’t trust them at all, and
    b/ I would never take such a huge risk to film in a country where the actors you want to give well paid jobs to, are openly hostile.

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  33. sprout,

    Just imagine a gunman holding a gun to your head and treatening to blow of your head (much like a blacklist).

    You saying that as soon as you take away the gun pointed at your head you can be all luvie duvie with the gunman.

    Most people would not trust the gunman (unarmed or not) ever again.

    I know I wouldn’t

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  34. Sprout

    You are correct. There is no current blacklist and the Union has “unconditionally” promised that there will be no job actions taken against the production.

    That’s pretty unusual. Think about that promise. Really. From a union perspective.

    The question is – why is it being provided?

    Thing is that not one of these people is telling the whole story. Not sure anyone really could without causing additional ructions. So you have to look at the things that you know for sure actually happened or did not happen, and you have to infer a lot of what the back-story really was… and you have to assume that the words being chosen are VERY carefully chosen.

    Things that really happened include a rather sudden blacklisting of “The Hobbit” by SAG at the request of “the local actors”.

    The local actors however, are represented by the MEAA (they voted for this fair and square). They are connected with SAG through the MEAA. One has to read the pronouncements carefully.

    The claim that the action was taken by the local actors is NOT accompanied by any reference to any vote taken by the NZ Actors Equity.

    SAG generally requires this for action to be taken, as do most unions… but a union exec can take action without a vote in some instances.

    My reading of all of it is that MEAA TOLD the NZ Actors that they were “on strike” just as it TOLD SAG that the NZ Actors were on strike.

    Once action was taken, I have to infer that the NZ actors and SAG both were somewhat surprised at what had been done in their name. No Union is so strong that it can afford dirty linen to be aired in public, the word is Solidarity, so Kiwis and SAG started in to do damage control. Including bringing in the CTU.

    Which brings me to this “promise”. I suspect that Whipp was kicked out on his ass and told to ASK before he calls a damned strike and oh by the way, give his word that he’d stay out of this production – or else –

    Which may have included instructions to him to keep his mouth shut until he was out of the country.

    That hadn’t occurred to me until just now. Maybe he HAD to keep his mouth shut.

    The point is that the damage is done when the studio knows that this “person” is still technically in control of the union that called SAG. WB isn’t worried about NZ, not worried about Australia.. .couldn’t care less, but it has to care about SAG which has the power to shut it down… no matter where it goes.

    Multinational corporation meets multinational union. That’s a GOOD thing. Multinational union is able to be manipulated by some idiot(s) in a country that isn’t even involved in the film? That is a VERY BAD thing. It is also a PROVEN thing. The question is what they and we can do about it.

    Which is why NZ Actors should be a SAG branch of their own so that they can make their own decisions and still have SAG to back them in any dispute.

    BJ

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  35. At this point WB has to be reworking the numbers. Helen Kelly is undoubtedly correct in that. The situation has been out of our control since the moment SAG was told to take action. Now a new deal has to be built if it can be.

    BJ

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  36. BJ-What was SAG asking for that was so unreasonable? They keep saying that the threat was to induce a meeting and a discussion around working conditions.

    Change “here” to “where” in last sentence of prior comment.

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  37. Sprout

    THAT is a good question.

    I don’t know what SAG could/would do if the film moved and his union then had nothing to do with the production. I am only sure that it becomes complicated, and that there would be further expenses that would be offset by the other location’s 30% tax rebate… or whatever it might be that they would bid.

    SAG also knows that another possibility is that the film doesn’t get made at all.

    That is ALSO an option… and souring relations with WB isn’t something they really want.

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  38. Sprout

    I can’t be sure what SAG wanted… I think they didn’t wanted much of anything. SAG struck because MEAA said they should. MEAA wanted to unionize the NZ industry. Wanted to unionize in a way that forced each production to negotiate separately, eliminating SPADA as a factor. That is why they were insisting on meeting with producers and specifically wanted to meet with Peter Jackson.

    Which is technically illegal by NZ law, and unlike the model used by SAG in every other country.

    Except maybe Australia. Which has a wholly moribund film industry.

    The thing is I don’t have much to go on when it comes to the motivations at that level. I am mostly guessing, based on the two statements I know Whipp has made. It was never about “The Hobbit”. It was about the NZ industry and his union.

    respectfully
    BJ

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  39. so..we are in the endgame…

    ..brownlee and key came out of that meeting looking like they had just been stood over by tony soprano…(brownlee especially)

    ..and key has been told to go and get them/jackson some more millions…

    ..and while he is there…to pass special employment laws..in their favour..

    ..have we been played like a violin..or what..?

    …(does anyone remember when those who said this wasn’t about unions..it was all about jackson/warners screwing some more taxpayer millions out of us..

    ..and how they were derided as deluded conspiracy-theorists..?

    ..eh..?..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  40. phil says “…(does anyone remember when those who said this wasn’t about unions..it was all about jackson/warners screwing some more taxpayer millions out of us..

    ..and how they were derided as deluded conspiracy-theorists..?”

    Phil – if you repeat an accusation over and over and show no evidence, then it’s not surprising you get labelled a conspiracy theorist.

    I suppose Warners somehow managed to infiltrate the union take out a world wide boycott against themselves too?

    They deliberately made delays of weeks costing themselves millions of dollars all as a ploy to try to get some more tax dollars out of Key, despite him saying they won’t be changing the tax rebates.

    Therefore it’s not surprising someone added deluded to the conspiracy theorists accusation.

    Personally I’d prefer to see even just a slither of evidence before I made an extreme accusation.

    So far all the evidence points to a complete cock-up by the unions.

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  41. when this is all done and dusted…

    ..and the cheque has been cashed…

    ..should a special over-acting award be struck for jackson..?

    ‘tortured’/’despairing’..up there in his castle…?

    ..pacing the corridors/parapets…

    ..railing at the unseen union-demons…

    ‘is this the ghost of low-paid/exploited extras i see before me…?’

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  42. “..Phil – if you repeat an accusation over and over and show no evidence, …”

    how the fuck is key giving them more millions..and changing employment laws for them..

    ..how is that not ‘evidence’..?…

    ..proof even..?

    ..(that’s even more than a ‘slither'(sic) of evidence..eh..?..)

    phil(whoar.co.nz)

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  43. sprout

    Anyway (W)here would they go if they didn’t film it in New Zealand ( “He got a world-wide boycott”)?

    Anywhere in eastern europe where they dont give a toss about SAG. Maybe China even (how many lead actors would follow the SAG commands and not appear in the movie?).

    The other side of the argument that nobody has raised is that the movie studios (including Warner) might see this as a way to negate the power of the SAG.

    Having fallen perfectly into their hands by inept Austalian unionist and the NZL CTU, this may be a god sent opportunity for them to weaken the SAG influence in their operational enterprises.

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  44. Photonz1 & Gerrit-Lots of questions:
    1. The actor unions claim they just want to negotiate consistent terms of employment and this has obviously spooked the movie studio, but what I have seen of their wish list doesn’t look excessive, what is the real issue?
    2. Warner Bros obviously have a history of maximizing profits in what appears to be underhand ways (see earlier link), what is really motivating them?
    3. What may the government potentially do do employment law? They suggest clarity around the terms “employee” and “contractor” could be useful. In my experience the shifting from employee to contractor is like what telecom did to their technicians, placing greater costs onto the worker and removing any job security.
    4. In all seriousness, where would they shift the filming to? This dispute is all about the actors isn’t it? Would they employ cheaper chinese actors, Gerrit?

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  45. phil – year right = it’s all just a big conspiracy to get more money.

    They infiltrated the union,

    started a world-wide boycott of themselves,

    spent million building sets they can’t take anywhere (just to put them in a really strong bargaining position)…….

    all so Key will move a percent or two on the tax rebate.

    I have no doubt they’ll try to get the best deal they can, just like everyone involved. They are taking a big risk with their $500m so they would be completely stupid to not get the best deal, and as much certainty as they can.

    But that the whole fiasco from the start has all been to get better tax deals?

    You’d need to be off your tree to believe that. (which might explain a lot)

    Or phrased so you may understand

    Tree need to be

    …off a lot…

    …big conspiracy believe true/real..!

    …….

    ……

    (eh…?..)

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  46. sprout
    Many actors want all the advantages of being a contractor – higher pay, deducting tax of all their expenses etc. They don’t want to be an employee.

    Even Crown Law said it would be illegal to collectively bargain as contractors, contrary to what Keith tried to insinuate.

    And I never heard what percentage of NZ actors in the union voted for a world-wide boycott before it was taken.

    Do you know what the percentage was?

    What’s motovating Warner Bros? – simple They want to make a movie, which was going ahead, country chosen, millions spend on sets, then they had a world-wide boycott taken out against them.

    Where would they shift it to?

    There’s plenty of scenery more spectacular then here.

    Plenty of actors who will work for cheaper rates.

    And when you’re one of 10,000 extras in full make up, nationality is of no consequence.

    So the choices are numerous.

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  47. sprout,

    This dispute is all about the actors isn’t it? Would they employ cheaper chinese actors, Gerrit?

    In this day and age there are plenty of actors of the desired ethnic complexion who would willingly travel to China for a chance to work.

    All China has to provide is the location and filming infastructure.

    The Hobbit is a movie not requiring (same as for LOTR) major actor names to “sell” the movie. Sure one or two top profile leads might be useful, but are not a prerequisite.

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  48. SAG can still keep them from having any of the “name” actors with proven talent that they are counting on. It is dubious that any of the people whose talents and identities got tied into the LOTR series would join this one.

    Could they find another “Gandalf”, another Bilbo, another company of dwarves… ? They have already cast the movie and would have to start over, and that would present risks of all sorts, and SAG does not have to limit its response to this production if they decide that the studio has gone too far.

    It is at least AS likely IMHO, that the whole project would get scrapped.

    In which case there might be contractors (and possibly amateurs) of an entirely different sort looking for Mr Whipp. The guy would probably do well to never set foot in NZ again, at the very least.

    BJ

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  49. The problem for Warners is that Whipp is still in the decision loop.

    If the NZ actors want to be sure this film stayed in NZ they really have to kick MEAA out and set up their own branch of SAG. Here. That isn’t a matter of NZ labour law or of added subsidies, or even a reduction of power for the NZ members of SAG.

    It is a matter of having control of their own destiny.

    The problem now is that barring that the Studio has to look for some compensations that offset the proven additional risk that Whipp’s continued existence poses to the production. He has made himself the problem, and he sits between SAG and the NZ actors.

    I think that Helen Kelly might be more persuasive in person, and might have included her and the CTU in the negotiation. As the question they have to ask is – “Why is she so sure that this Unionist from Oz is now out of the picture?” … after all, HE isn’t part of the New Zealand CTU.

    (Yet another reason the MEAA needs to be cut out).

    respectfully
    BJ

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  50. @bjchip 8:23 AM

    That’s not what Key is suggesting in this story. Seems the main problem for Warners is not Whipp or the MEEA – it is NZ’s employment law.

    That followed a Supreme Court ruling in 2005 on James Bryson, a model maker on the Lord of the Rings movies, who was deemed an employee, even though he was hired as a contractor.

    “They’re not arguing people can’t be employees,” Mr Key said.

    “They’re just saying that if someone is engaged by their production company as a contractor, they want to know if that’s how it’s going to end up, and if it doesn’t, that has other economic consequences for them.

    “They’re out of here, if we can’t give them the clarity. There’s no question about that.”

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  51. Key controls the employment law. It is something he can do something about and now he has a lever with which to pry loose a change under urgency (it is his favorite way).

    Discussing this from the viewpoint of WB however, the employment law wasn’t even on the radar. The problem for them is that, for all intents and purposes, they were blacklisted by Whipp, and he’s still there.

    Key can do stuff around the employment law that somewhat reduces Union power where actors are concerned but he can’t remove Whipp… and the “Contractor” vs “Employee” argument isn’t going to solve the problem. He can use it to cut off some union power but the real issues aren’t touched.

    Properly changing this would require the NZ Actors Equity to boot Whipp and organize with SAG as themselves… and would require that the law recognize their right to negotiate general terms for contracts with the industry as NOT being a matter of “price fixing”. An assurance from the local actors might do better than the one from the CTU.

    I don’t think we can expect any “proper” changes. I think we’re destined to have to get the vaseline out and accept the reaming we’re going to get.

    If I were one of those directly involved the temptation to find an “independent contractor” to deal with Whipp would be considerable.

    BJ

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  52. How can someone like Whipp get a world-wide boycott on the Hobbit, without even bothering to get a vote from NZ union members to find out if they even wanted that action?

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  53. Photonz
    .

    I think it has to do with the way his union is structured. MEAA represents the NZ actors, and it is up to MEAA if it calls a job action, not up to the NZ actors, because according to its legal hair splitting it IS the NZ actors.
    .

    I repeat, if there had been a vote in NZ we’d have seen it publicized long since, as a way to deflect and spread the blame. The only vote ever referred to however, is the vote they all took to become part of MEAA.
    .

    So it really appears to me that MEAA TOLD the union members here that they were on strike… and at the same time TOLD SAG that the union members here were on strike.
    .

    Without a local vote, and this is (if I am not mistaken) a violation of SAG rules, and an encroachment on the prerogatives of the CTU here.
    .

    Which is why I am considering that he didn’t just leave here voluntarily…
    .

    I reckon he was booted fairly hard (though not far enough or publicly enough) by the local unions. The chain of logic I use to reach that conclusion is admittedly fairly thin… there is so little to go on.
    .

    Still, that’s my story and I’m sticking with it. :-)
    .

    respectfully
    BJ

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  54. I think Whipp thought he was in a poker game with the biggest ever players.

    He got dealt a rubbish hand, but thought he could take the nuclear option bet everything he owned – or more to the point, risk everything his mates owned – their life savings i.e. their careers, the NZ film industry etc – and bluff his way to a win.

    But of course Warners held all the top cards – they always did – they didn’t even have to play at his table.

    If they want they can take everything he gambled, and walk away to another game.

    It’s an enormous stuff up by the Union, or at least those in control of it.

    No one knows if the union members wanted this or not, as they were never asked their opinion through a vote.

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  55. Bullshit, sprout.

    The list of lapdogs include: Australia, South Africa, Puerto Rico, Canada, Manitoba, UK, Ireland, Germany, Hungry, Czech Republic, plus at least the US states of California (amazingly), Connecticut, Louisiana, Massachusettes, New Mexico and New York. Theres almost certainly more.

    Yep, we’re a lapdog. But we always were; nothing has changed.

    Though frankly, I prefer the more accurate analogy that we (all of those places listed above, including NZ) are grovelling for the crumbs from the giant’s table. A two trillion dollar industry generates a lot of crumbs…

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  56. So thousands of kiwi jobs and a billion dollar industry are saved, and NZ has an amazing oportunity to market ourselves……and….

    sprout and the Greens are miserable about it….that says a lot.

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  57. No Photonz… a few Greens may be, as you say, miserable. I think they are not even that… but the party did not do the usual rush to the side of the unions here and overall managed a fairly moderate position. YMMV, For us it was moderate.

    BJ

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  58. bj – I was meaning Greens (the party rather than generally) as Russell was reported on radio this morning as slamming the deal.

    The other option was try to bluff Warners and risk losing the lot, and causing huge damage to a billion dollar industry.

    In the last year or two a lot of big budget movies have been stopped completely, put on hold, down scaled, or shifted – even after millions have been poured in in preparation.

    This is an outstanding result. it’s cost us around $30m, of which $20m we wouldn’t have got if it didn’t go ahead anyway.

    And the rest is a cheap price for an enormous marketing coup – NZ adverts in every Hobbit DVD – this is huge.

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