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Parliament passes Hobbit bill

Published: 1:04PM Friday October 29, 2010 Source: ONE News/Newstalk ZB

Parliament has passed the government's new law to clarify the position of contractors within the film industry.

MPs have voted 66 to 50 in favour of the law, which is part of the deal brokered with movie producer Warner Brothers earlier this week to keep production of The Hobbit in New Zealand.

This was that the Employment Relations Act would be amended to make sure a worker engaged on an independent contract will not be able to go to court and claim employee rights and conditions.

Labour fought the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill to the last clause, arguing it isn't necessary and the government is "sticking it to the unions".

During the debate, Labour's David Parker accused the government of playing a "political game".

"I don't even think Warner Brothers demanded this. There wasn't a problem to be fixed, there have been no problems in the film industry for the last five years," he said.

Labour and the Greens are accusing the government of capitulating to a foreign company, abusing parliamentary process and making a mockery of democracy.

But ministers say Warner Bros would have pulled out of New Zealand without the commitment to change the law.

'Security assured'

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson says the security of workers in the film industry and The Hobbit in New Zealand has been secured with the passing of the bill.

"This law provides certainty to the film industry in New Zealand, an industry that is worth $2.8 billion to our economy. The two Hobbit films alone are worth $670 million," Wilkinson said.

"It clarifies what is already widespread industry practice - that actors, crew members and other production personnel in the film industry who sign on as independent contractors are just that, independent contractors. If they sign on as an employee, they are an employee."

Wilkinson said the government gave serious thought to how it would respond to the threat posed to the entire New Zealand film industry.

"While this is a direct response to ensure The Hobbit is filmed here, it is also in response to the fact that had we lost The Hobbit our reputation as a filming location would have suffered hugely.

"This government was not going to let that happen. We were not prepared to see thousands of Kiwi jobs disappear and we were not prepared to see the hard work of the many talented New Zealanders who built our film industry from scratch put at risk."

'Unjust' law should not be extended

The Employers & Manufacturers Association (EMA) today called for the new law to be extended to all contractors, but the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) says that would simply extend a gross injustice done to a few, to the many.

EPMU national secretary Andrew Little said such "contractor" agreements have the effect of denying workers access to employment protections including minimum standards, personal grievances and holiday rights even though a worker may operate and be managed as if they are employed under a conventional employment agreement.
 
"The law change denies workers in the film industry a right that has been around for more than a hundred years which is to have the real nature of an agreement to perform work determined by the courts," he said.

"Prohibiting the courts from deciding on the true nature of a person's agreement is not a step that should ever be taken lightly as it denies one of the basic checks and balances against abuse of these arrangements by employers."

Little said in commercial, trust and tax matters the courts have always had the ability to "go behind the words" and look at the true nature of an agreement or arrangement.

"Today's call by the Employers & Manufacturers Association to extend the new law to all contractors shows that the government's hasty and ill-considered law change is having the predictable consequence of encouraging and promoting the extremists to demand stripping even more rights and protections off working people."

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  • argonell said on 2011-01-26 @ 18:38 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Congratulations Mister Prime Minister! Notice the timing of the boycott - AFTER proven success, after all the risk, after the blood, sweat and tears. What leeches the union produces! All the risk takers such as Weta, New Line and now MGM commit to the funds needed, but these guys can up and break contract or strike and leave everyone hanging. It is absolutely despicable! Here's a thought for these few bottle babies...leave, and let the thousands of mature New Zealand adults keep working!

  • Nelson said on 2010-10-29 @ 13:30 NZDT: Report abusive post

    If a large multi-national company set-up in NZ (unlikely i know) and offered the employees NO security, i.e "your late so dont turn up tomorrow, you're out". Or I" dont like your attitude please leave". Would the government change the law to allow this ? Oops I asked a question there.... the Government had already done it. Why does '3rd world' and 'going backwards' come to mind....

  • lisellemono1 said on 2010-10-29 @ 08:55 NZDT: Report abusive post

    The reality is that most Film people work for free anyway. They would love to work in the Hobbit and nobody who wants to even cares about the money or the pay. It's for the love of film, a thing many careers are lacking. How many artists get paid well? It's life and its love. Thats the way we like it really. People's lives looked set to be destroyed from jobs, income down to relationships, family. Now its better. Lets face it, those moaning arent affected by it anyway. Thanks John Key!

  • i8thelastcookie said on 2010-10-29 @ 08:01 NZDT: Report abusive post

    How pathetic NZ has become. Keep blaming the unions for this stupid movie.Why don't you just put an add in the US that says "come to NZ and make your movies for free, actually..we'll pay you to come and do it here too.."no wonder 40 thousand NZ'ers go to australia to live every year..unions only try to give fair workers rights..not take them away..but when you get public harrassment in restaurants of these poor people trying to earn a fair dollar..just shows how low this country really is.

  • Hobbiton Farmer said on 2010-10-29 @ 07:43 NZDT: Report abusive post

    If The Hobbit had been taken away from NZ then no other international film company would have risked their time and money to film in NZ. What a terrible waste and cost! Who would have suffered? The people who work in the NZ film industry, and all the supporting jobs.

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