Hobbit law passes, but not everybody on board

For: National, Act, United Future, Maori Party Against: Labour, Greens, Progressive Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson claims film industry workers associated with The Hobbit are secure now new legislation is in place. Ms Wilkinson said the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment provides certainty to the film industry in New Zealand – worth $2.8 billion to the economy.

For: National, Act, United Future, Maori Party
Against: Labour, Greens, Progressive

Labour Minister Kate Wilkinson claims film industry workers associated with The Hobbit are secure now new legislation is in place.

Ms Wilkinson said the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment provides certainty to the film industry in New Zealand – worth $2.8 billion to the economy.

In big call for the opposition, the Labour Party chose to oppose the popular legislation, as did the Greens and Progressive MP Jim Anderton.

Act and United got in behind the law change.

The Maori Party, which was lobbied hard by the prime minister and late to declare its hand, ultimately supported the legislation.

The prime minister had sought a broad consensus on the Hobbit law, but despite the risk of public opprobrium, senior Labour MP Trevor Mallard and others were hostile from the start.

Mr Mallard said the Hobbit Law "makes us look like a banana republic," while Greens co-leader Russel Norman was quoted as saying, "We're going to prostitute our industrial law."

For another Labour MP, Clare Curran, it was a case of "NZ Law: Brought to you by Warner Bros."

For Ms Wilkinson, the new legislation, “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.”

Ms Wilkinson said the government gave serious though to how it would respond to the threat posed to the entire industry over recent industrial action.

“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.”

"Gross injustice"
Meanwhile, Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) warn extending "The Hobbit" law to all contractors would extend a "gross injustice" done to a few to the many.

EMPU national secretary Andrew Little said contractor agreements have the effect of denying workers access to employment protections including minimum standards, personal grievances and holiday rights.

"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.

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