Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • Russell Brown,

    Of course not, Gio. This is the Brave New World. They have a guild

    Which is a union, like the Screen Actors' Guild is a union.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Post duly amended.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • sally jones,

    I am not really qualified to weigh into this debate as I haven't read through the discussion in full but...what I am more qualified than most to say is - Bloody Aussies!
    From the way Fran Walsh was talking the whole sorry saga was the work of one evil Aussie dude.

    The Australians are perpetually smarting from the success of our film industry in general and more recently, their glaring cock-up in Australia. That film was an outstanding embarrassment to every living and some dead Australian/s. The Australians will never forgive us.

    The commentators who should know what's what are saying the union stuffed up. Saying that regardless of what happens now Jackson's name and the NZ film industry has been permanently damaged and will not recover easily, if at all.

    I hope this is not all down to one twatcock Australian.

    On that note, if anyone wants a slightly more humorous take on the day and specifically on the Lucky Country (Australia) in which I grew up, then they should check out my latest post on dancing with dingoes (apologies to Russell for my shameful self-promotion).

    Auckland • Since Sep 2010 • 179 posts Report Reply

  • 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

    As I said, this is not true. Of course I cannot speak for other unions, but I can for my own. The Writers’ Guild has not privately or publicly assured the government that it's on the side of the producers. It has never spoken to the government. It has spoken to SPADA to offer to help in mediation -- as it has done with Equity. To say it is "on the side of the producers in this case" is untrue -- mischievously so.
    In the past the Writers’ Guild has requested SPADA negotiate a collective agreement and been rebuffed, like Equity. Why would we be "on the side of the producers" in a dispute that began with a refusal to negotiate a collective agreement?
    As I also said, I'm intrigued. Where is the lie coming from?

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    In essence in NZ a union executive can embank on any policy direction if they (the executive, the CTU, or the Labour Party) wish to without having to consult with the union membership.

    I'm a member of a CTU affiliated union and I don't think anything of what you've said here applies. Our executive members are unpaid, we vote before employment negotiations about our claims, meetings are held at a variety of times because some people have to run operations and need to go to meetings in shifts so that everyone can attend. Meetings are typically run at very civil times and the major problem with them is not enough people attending, the union does everything it can to get everyone there.

    I'd also point out that if I was a union official with a knowledge of union history, I'd be very concerned about a counter-meeting or march which I thought might be coming to my meeting.

    You'd hope that such a thing would be civil, but I'd have no desire to put my members into a confrontation with other workers who were unhappy with them and their actions. There's been plenty of incidents in union history where that's gone really wrong.

    That doesn't make the concerns of the technicians etc totally valid. Just that who'd want those two groups to come together in a confrontation.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6147 posts Report Reply

  • 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

    As I said, this is not true. Of course I cannot speak for other unions, but I can for my own. The Writers’ Guild has not privately or publicly assured the government that it's on the side of the producers. It has never spoken to the government. It has spoken to SPADA to offer to help in mediation -- as it has done with Equity. To say it is "on the side of the producers in this case" is untrue -- mischievously so.
    In the past the Writers’ Guild has tried to get SPADA negotiate a collective agreement and been rebuffed, like Equity. Why would we be "on the side of the producers" in a dispute that began with a refusal to negotiate a collective agreement?
    As I also said, I'm intrigued. Where is the lie coming from?

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 6 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    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

    In both education and film disputes, communication of what those key conditions are has been appallingly inept. It's surely no surprise that corporate media, big business or a right-wing government will come up with an opposing storyline. Being prepared would have been prudent.

    Instead we've heard some inflammatory rhetoric and off-the-cuff confused reasoning from many quarters. Livelihoods are at stake so passion makes sense.

    I'm not at all clear of the exact linkage between Peter Jackson, Weta and the stirring statement that we now hear was written (badly) some time earlier than yesterday. We've already discussed on other threads the muddy agendas in the union's behaviour to date. However, I can see how other parties going public if there was an agreement to work together first would be infuriating.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16272 posts Report Reply

  • andin,

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

    NZer's have quite a good history of union vilification.
    Not that Im drawing any parallel to the present situation.

    And there's quite a bit of anti-establishmentarianism in the mix as well.
    Of varying Standards (Im not putting a link in)

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1155 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Bugger all about, nothing...

    Only mentioned very much in passing, as the ruler of the Woodland realm in Greenwood, which later became Mirkwood.

    Who knows where it will end up, I'm looking forward to the new Welsh Hobbit production, now retitled as Under Mirkwood ...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 4555 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    I believe you may be thinking of The Price of Mirkwood, Ian.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Joe Wylie,

    Who knows where it will end up, I'm looking forward to the new Welsh Hobbit production, now retitled as Under Mirkwood ...

    Starless and Bilbo Black . . .

    flat earth • Since Jan 2007 • 3325 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Hi Dean, first part of your statement is totally true, thanks.

    Second, not so much: we have never, at least in the last few years asked for a 'collective agreement' to be negotiated with SPADA. We have always understood that doing so is effectively illegal for people working as independent contractors. We have operated under our own version of the 'pink book guidelines', which we are in a constant process of renegotiating and reinforcing as best we can within NZ law. I'd like to think we do pretty damn decently too.

    So we haven't, to the best of my knowledge, been rebuffed by SPADA. I'm not defending SPADA in any way of course in this instance, or any other: just merely saying we haven't had that specific issue with them. Having said that, not everyone on SPADA is a terrible person by any means. Matt Horrocks for example, is a very decent fellow in my personal opinion. As are others. We work very hard on getting the best results for our members by working with our industry partners as much as possible, and - by and large - they're responsive, and our members are in far better positions as a result.

    Anyway, if you, or any other members of any of the guilds want to email me and as NZWG President and have a chat about the NZWG position you're more than welcome to - my email is on the NZWG website. Or you can chat to Steven Gannaway, the ED, although he's very busy, so I don't want to make promises of his time - operational/governance divide and all that...

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso,

    In both education and film disputes, communication of what those key conditions are has been appallingly inept. It's surely no surprise that corporate media, big business or a right-wing government will come up with an opposing storyline. Being prepared would have been prudent.

    The media will always be anti-union, because hey, that's how they roll. You only need to go for an interview at the Dom Post to know what they think about the union movement. But the more fundamental question is: are there members of NZEI who aren't clear about their union's objectives in the current dispute? And the answer as far as I know would seem to be no.

    Can we say the same here? Are the members of the actors' guild clear on what the current dispute is about, have they been adequately consulted, and do they support it?

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7320 posts Report Reply

  • Petra,

    nm...

    Rotorua • Since Mar 2007 • 317 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    @Helen

    Where to start Russel?? Equity dont need to change the law here.

    Meant to also say: if that's the case, why would Peter Cox be explaining how the NZ Writer's Guild has been discussing a lobbying and law-change strategy very similar to that of Irish Equity?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    In both education and film disputes, communication of what those key conditions are has been appallingly inept

    While the education dispute could be being pursued better (clearly articulating the clawbacks under threat, capitalising on mendacious public comments like "Schools are funded for a class size of 17") it could also have been a lot worse- I thought the line about not wanting to go down the path of countries with a worse education system, instead favouring a evidence based strategy was good (though in effective language terms I'd say fact based, even though it is actually less accurate it is a better understood term).

    The dispute on the NZAE on the other hand... Well the people who have probably benefited most are Warner Bros (for being able to shift the production to somewhere they can make more money with NZAE taking the blame) and the Government (for having a convenient scapegoat to blame for losing the hobbit).

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 841 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn,

    Are the members of the actors' guild clear on what the current dispute is about, have they been adequately consulted, and do they support it?

    Well, it's anyone's guess, Giovanni - the only people who will know that are those who belong to it and attend meetings/read newsletters and emails. If you go by other people's opinions and the disparate snippets released through the media, you'll say no, probably....

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

  • Rob Stowell,

    Yeah Jacqui: under-gunned and if the NZAE executive look 'amateur' it may be because they are, at best, a few part-time positions.
    Definitely not a slick, well-run piece of industrial action, on a few levels. Media management and communication, both internally with members and putting their case to the public were... distinctly average.
    But if you read between the lines (because there are opposing legal opinions, and the langauge became critically tricky) NZAE wanted to collectively bargain. Because in the end, that's most of what a union can do for its members. I'd be... unhappy if all my union could do was negotiate voluntary guidelines regarding employment conditions :)
    I'd be very interested in seeing the legality of collective bargaining by 'free-lancers' tested in court. The structure of screen production employment/contracting is something of an international anomoly- and it probably does need to change.
    (But it's about as likely NZAE have the money for a long legal campiagn as they do for a slick PR operation :))

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1434 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    Which is a union, like the Screen Actors' Guild is a union.

    Yeah. Sort of, at least. Sorry, snarkiness isn't helping.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1434 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Having said that, not everyone on SPADA is a terrible person by any means. Matt Horrocks for example, is a very decent fellow in my personal opinion. As are others.

    Thanks for saying that. Although I have friends on both sides of the divide -- especially in the technical crafts -- I also know a few producers, including my own executive producer, Vincent Burke.

    The depiction of Spada as the face of the evil boss class actually bothered me. Yes, there are some self-interested people in there, but many of the people I've met at Spada conferences strike me as nuts to do what they do. They pocket remarkably little of their budgets. And actors aren't the only people who sometimes have to find jobs between projects to keep paying the rent.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    clearly articulating the clawbacks under threat

    I'm still waiting to hear what they are

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16272 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Cox,

    Meant to also say: if that's the case, why would Peter Cox be explaining how the NZ Writer's Guild has been discussing a lobbying and law-change strategy very similar to that of Irish Equity?

    I think was she is saying is that there are also legislative challenges that can be made to the existing law.

    But I think her point is that basically that if the pink book is legal then it should be legal to have an individual 'pink book' for the hobbit producers.

    You could also say that both of those options were equally illegal depending on what side of the legal fence you stand, and there-in lies the problem. And, at least as far as I can tell, there's an argument either way. Ultimately, as Rob says, it would be a protracted legal campaign to find out and set some kind of specific precedent, which no one is really that keen on, I don't think. But maybe that will change...

    Really, the problem hasn't been helped by the FIA statement specifically requesting the Hobbit producers enter into a collective bargain with the MEAA, which I would imagine the rest of the FIA would assume meant 'legally binding', when the MEAA's own legal advice very specifically said that they couldn't legally collectively bargain unless the NZ Actor's were employees, which, as far as I can tell, they don't want to be.

    Now, maybe if that original Simpson-Grierson advice dealt with the Trade Union Act Kelly is referring to, things might be a bit different, certainly I would have liked to have heard Crown Law's opinion on it.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 310 posts Report Reply

  • Helen Kelly,

    hi Ben - actually I went down and addressed the crowd. Some people appreciated that. What we didnt want was an ill informed group confronting the Equity members that wanted to come and discuss up coming negotiations - sensible I think as it turned out. Cheap hit on unions re confrontation.

    Wellington NZ • Since Jan 2010 • 4 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    But if you read between the lines (because there are opposing legal opinions, and the langauge became critically tricky) NZAE wanted to collectively bargain. Because in the end, that's most of what a union can do for its members

    And now, in a war, NZAE has caved and settled instead for something it had anyway. The attempt at Outrageous Fortune last year failed similarly. The strategy of trying to win national agreements by targeting high-profile productions has been a horrible failure.

    I'd be very interested in seeing the legality of collective bargaining by 'free-lancers' tested in court.

    Hell yes!

    Although it had some atypical features (Weta's HR seems to have been a mess at the time) the Bryson case made everyone in employment law sit up and pay attention.

    Dammit, MEAA was supposed to bring the resources for that kind of thing. Instead, Simon Whipp let his New Zealand subsidiary get struck off. I really think that man has some stuff to answer for.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18512 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Stowell,

    The depiction of Spada as the face of the evil boss class

    Yes, that's very unhelpful. Some people will take the role of producer on one project, help catering for another, and be an orc in the next. Continuity of work in NZ screen production, outside the major TV channels, is very much the exception.
    That's something we need to think about- and nurture- fairly carefully. Because when it stops feeling like 'we're all in this together' and starts feeling like 'them and us'- we've lost something rather intangible that's very hard to get back.
    Paying residuals to actors is a step in the right direction: investing them in a project's long-term success. It should be the norm, rather than the exception.

    Whakaraupo • Since Nov 2006 • 1434 posts Report Reply

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