Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • Dean Parker,

    "None of the other screen guilds have spoken in support of Equity, and they have privately assured both Spada and the government that they are on the side of the producers in this case."
    -- Public Address

    I'm intrigued. Where did this come from? It's simply not true. It's made up. I can see why it would be made up of course, but who made it up? who's putting it around?

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    @pneumeric, amen.

    EDIT:

    None of the other screen guilds have spoken in support of Equity, and they have privately assured both Spada and the government that they are on the side of the producers in this case.

    Oh!... sorry didn't really properly take that in until now. Because I said I agreed with Russell's post earlier, I'd better clarify: the NZWG position is the same now as its always been: the 'relevant parties need to sit down and work it out'. Same position privately too. I'm not sure that necessarily puts us on anyone's 'side'.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 311 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    @Dean Parker

    All you have to do to prove that Russell's claim is not true (and I suggest you think carefully about whether you want to go on record as doubting his integrity), is find a press release or a newspaper report of one of the other screen guilds supporting Actors Equity in this action. That might be a bit better than logging in here for the first time ever with the sort of accusation you are making.

    Manawatu City • Since Nov 2006 • 1323 posts Report Reply

  • Marian Evans,

    @ Dean Parker

    I'm intrigued. How do you know this isn't true?

    Wellington • Since Oct 2010 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • pneumeric,

    at any rate we can't have it both ways: was this a shambles of an honest industrial action, or a dishonest one that achieved its objectives? If critics could make up their mind either way it would help the discussion.

    Actually this is quite possible with One NZ union recently incorporated into an Australian union, you could quite easily have the NZ actors thinking or being told one thing and the Australian union aiming for an entirely different goal... I'm not saying this is the case, just that one does not exclude the other

    Wellington • Since Jul 2010 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I believe you are being disingenuous to say you "cannot understand the motives" behind the 1000+ people who gathered to express their concern about how they will feed their families and pay their mortgages in the coming few years.

    EDITED to remove OTT phrase. Apologies.

    Yes, be very careful. We want to hear what Helen has to say.

    But I do have to wonder how one could ever effectively be a leader of a trade union movement if strong language and workers marching scares one off. These are the very least of tactics that unions regularly employ to get their way. The irony of a small group of people denying a large group access to a living, and then refusing to meet them, when that small group claims to be representatives of the proletarians, is lost on no one.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    Look on the bright side. If the Hobbit isn't made here, then the NZ taxpayer saves $90mln (15% of the budget).

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4463 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    And another question for Helen Kelly.

    On reflection, do you think it was entirely productive calling Peter Jackson a "spoiled brat", accusing Richard Taylor of "winding up" a "lynch mob mood" and, let's be blunt, calling Jackson, Taylor, Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens liars on Nine to Noon this morning?

    I'm reasonably confident you'd find that kind of public rhetoric from employers a somewhat perverse form of good faith bargaining.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    If the Hobbit isn't made here, then the NZ taxpayer saves $90mln (15% of the budget).

    I'm pretty sure the line items of the budget that could be claimed back would be a fraction of the total budget.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    How much more worse could it get?

    Forgive the strong analogism, but are unionists in NZ really going to become the new paedophiles in the court of public opinion? Or is the whole thing merely blown out of proportion? Probably only the warring parties know. It'd be a sad day for NZ if unionists have to be escorted by armed heavies when they go out.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    @Graham:

    Russell, the document you've posted is the statement - unattributed you'll notice - that Jed Brophy asked to read at the original Equity meeting in Wellington some weeks back. He was not shouted down, he was invited to finish but baulked at reading the defamatory accusations against Jennifer and Michael.

    Fair enough. I'll amend that in a moment. The commentary about them was unwarranted and unhelpful. I do think it would have been reasonable for Jackson to ask why his production had been targeted when the foreign production providing them with an income never heard a peep. I know some Wellington-based actors feel that way too.

    But can you confirm what happened with the vote? That seems dreadful.

    In a similar fashion I have received abusive emails from John Barnett and Murray Francis for my support of actors to participate in their own lives and careers.

    I saw the Barnett one. It was certainly unhelpful, but you're not the first to get a furious email from Barney. I have.

    I recently listened to an industry professional complain about that letter to me -- and then launch into some far worse vilification of Jackson. Chris Trotter has been happily spraying around the venom (including at me), and over at The Standard it's been more or less non-stop. I stopped commenting there after I was informed that I'd chosen my side in the class war.

    I'm sorry, but I have to put some of the anger that sprang up down to the style of NZAE since 2006. I've heard of people literally being screamed at by one individual. As Gordon Campbell noted in his first column on the matter, the Vincent Gallo thing was pure farce.

    I've really tried to avoid that, and to express my respect for the professional skills of the actors who fronted, while disagreeing strongly with many of their actions.

    Until today Equity has chosen to pursue its request without fighting the battle in the media and the court of public opinion.

    Apart from appearing on television, giving radio and newspaper interviews, releasing statements, publishing "fact sheets", you mean? Come on.

    I am unclear how the current actions of technicians can help the situation.

    Has it occurred to you they're upset and fearful for their livelihoods?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Samuel Scott,

    I'm pretty sure the line items of the budget that could be claimed back would be a fraction of the total budget.

    I know most of the accounts team pretty well, I'll ask. And of course, how much tax income is generated through wages? A minimum of 20% of whatever is paid out in that regard. Maybe like 50 million?

    Still though, its all peanuts compared to the cash that those cruise ships bring to Wellington. Awful cafes will be making a killing!

    South Wellington • Since Feb 2008 • 300 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    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.

    Turns out the standard "no different" opening to all Equity negotiations is to ask for an international boycott of New Zealand made productions. (Wonder why Equity provokes "extremely aggressive responses" from NZ production companies.) Except with the Hobbit Equity achieved exactly what they requested - an international boycott.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    Has it occurred to you they're upset and fearful for their livelihoods?

    Are they unionised?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Are they unionised?

    If they are, then the Peoples' Front of Judea is starting to cut a bit close to home.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • SteveH,

    Look on the bright side. If the Hobbit isn't made here, then the NZ taxpayer saves $90mln (15% of the budget).

    But the economy loses the other $610M (ok, not all of it would be spent here). And it's not like we get the $90M back - that's money the taxpayer doesn't see either way (though presumably there are some grants we wouldn't have to pay). Worst of all an industry twice the size of NZ's wine industry might be in jeopardy. It's not much of a bright side.

    Since Sep 2009 • 399 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    @Helen

    Where to start Russel?? Equity dont need to change the law here. They are seeking standard commercial agreements to be offered to performers. Apart from the view that this is lawful under the Commerce Act, the Trade Union Act 1908 certainly allows it. The Pink Book is legal but production company agreements arent??

    Well, there was a Crown Law opinion. And the private opinion sought by Equity offered what seem like contrived solutions.

    The Pink Book has been mainly honoured in the breach. We have numerous examples, some not too far from this movie, that do not comply

    Surely it would have been appropriate to record and present these examples. And then talk to Spada.

    - the discussions with SPADA will be on content and form - not only what, but how! To be enduring - it will need to have the how.

    I just don't see why this couldn't have been done two years ago, rather than after the extraordinarily provocative step of a global boycott of the production. Why were actors consulted only after the boycott was called, and why did the resolutions from the meetings bear so little relation to the substance of the "don't work" order?

    Why didn't these specific instances of breaches feature prominently in communications about the actors' case? Why was the actors' public case so lacking in coherence and consistency?

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

    Helen, you know from our initial contact that I was very keen to hear your side of the story here. It's not just me "not checking my facts". There are people here with genuine empathy for the actors' cause who have been appalled by the way this has been handled. Me included, on both counts.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Are they unionised?

    Many of them, yes.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18969 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    And where's their union on this?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7386 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    I've been following this and other threads with increasing despondency, noting that the language and emotions are increasingly nasty and violent, so I'm asking for some calm.

    Please consider the following:
    There's a fear that teachers will suffer if they strike, due to their union's failure to focus and let the public in on really key points: that conditions are not good in their industry, that those conditions need addressing, and that pay is not the major issue. But the media splashes "pay dispute" all over the subject, and somehow that's how the public sees it. It's over "pay".

    Actors in New Zealand are likely to suffer because of the confusion caused by Actors' Equity's demands, its lack of response to questions being asked, and its apparent inability to clearly outline what it wants. It has failed to let the public in on it.

    If Actors' Equity is anything like the old version I once served and belonged to, it is underfunded and always scratching for resources, many of those purely "people-power". Its executive has to keep abreast of what's happening in a fairly diverse industry while also maintaining their own careers, as well as getting information out to the members. Sure, their actions and reactions may have been piecemeal; gathering actors together for urgent meetings, given that there's rarely a dozen in any one production at a time, isn't so easy. Frances Walsh may be the union organizer, but she may be only part-time, because that's all the union used to be able to afford when I was on the committee.

    There are lots of people firing off lots of stuff, real and imaginary, fact and gossip, in fora and articles up and down the country, so just catching up would be difficult for any individual. The union has been roundly criticized for a great deal of what it appears to have done and not done. My thoughts about it, at this stage, is that there is still much conjecture. What headlines is not necessarily the truth, for teachers' union and actors' union.

    My feeling is that local actors are being used as pawns in a much more international game, but that's just my feeling. I won't know the truth until it all comes out.

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    Many of them, yes.

    Theoretically it'd be the EPMU or NZWG.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4355 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    Forgive the strong analogism, but are unionists in NZ really going to become the new paedophiles in the court of public opinion?

    I know I'm the last one to talk (and have the slap marks to prove it), but duuuuuude... I'm blushing in places that haven't experienced blood flow since Abba broke up.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12034 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Are they unionised?

    Of course not, Gio. This is the Brave New World. They have a guild, and a 'blue book' with 'guidelines'.
    Nothing wrong with being a free-lancer if you like the life. Been there, done that. One can take a certain pride in being 'self-empolyed'. But sometimes it looked awfully like casualised labour- with no holiday pay, sick pay, or job security :)

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1574 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I'm blushing in places that haven't experienced blood flow since Abba broke up.

    <click>Your eyeballs, right?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8592 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Theoretically it'd be the EPMU or NZWG.

    Techos have the Techo's Guild (NZFVTG). Writers are the NZWG. Directors the NZDG. Producers are SPADA.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 311 posts Report Reply

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