The Australian union and the Hobbit

September 27th, 2010 at 8:04 am by David Farrar

I got sent documents over the weekend from a film industry source, detailing the outraegous behaviour of the Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance, an Australian union.

It seems Disney has already made an unofficial decision, not to shoot anymore in New Zealand, because the union unreasonable blocks immigration permits.

But what is happening with is even worse than that, and may lead to the shut down of much of the NZ film industry – if moves off shore (as reported here as likely).

This union is thought to have less than 90 members in New Zealand, and is threatening the jobs of up to 3,000 people. How do they have such power?

The International Federation of Actors (FIA), of which the vast majority of performer around the world are members, resolved that the time had come for performers around the world to support their colleagues in New Zealand and seek a union contract for all performers on The Hobbit.

Yes, this Australian union has arranged a global boycott of the Hobbit.

And what are they calling for?

“Resolved, that the International Federation of Actors urges each of its affiliates to adopt instructions to their members that no member of any FIA affiliate will agree to act in the theatrical film The Hobbit until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and conditions for all performers employed on the productions.”

And here is the irony.It is illegal for to do what they call for. Why? Under the current law, only a registered union can enter into a collective contract, and the is not a registered NZ union.

The Employment Relations Act states a NZ union, must be an incorporated society under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. The MEAA is not. Screen Hub reports:

NZ Actors’ Equity is a trade union in NZ, an affiliate member of the Council of Trade Unions (CTU) under its MEAA name. It was struck off the Ministry of Economic Development’s (MED) Register of Incorporated Societies last week under its registered name of Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance.

So there is no legal entity to negotiate with.

The union has called a meeting tomorrow to discuss their action. It is:

Tuesday, September 28 at 7pm, at Grey Lynn Community Centre, 510 Richmond Rd, Grey Lynn

I hope lots of media attend, and ask questions about why this Australian uion has arranged a global boycott of The Hobbit, on the basis of an illegal demand.

Peter Jackson makes the point:

In a four-page statement last night, the usually media-shy Jackson said he was a “very proud and loyal member” of three Hollywood unions and “not anti-union in the slightest”.

He always honoured actors’ union conditions if they were union members, and the MEAA had a clear agenda “based on money and power”.

“I can’t see beyond the ugly spectre of an Australian bully-boy using what he perceives as his weak Kiwi cousins to gain a foothold in this country’s film industry. They want greater membership, since they get to increase their bank balance.

“I feel growing anger at the way this tiny minority is endangering a project that hundreds of people have worked on over the last two years, and the thousands about to be employed for the next four years, [and] the hundreds of millions of Warner Brothers dollars that is about to be spent in our economy.”

And some useful quotes from Screen Hub:

According to one producer Screen Hub spoke to, the Equity/MEAA approach is akin to sending out suicide bombers. If inbound production diminishes or disappears from our shores, actors will lose work along with everybody else. Given the reliance on inbound production to sustain much of the industry in terms of day-to-day employment of contractors, “We might as well pack up and go home,” said one film industry lawyer.

If this Australian union manages to kill off the NZ film industry, where do you think some of these films may end up? Australian perhaps?

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49 Responses to “The Australian union and the Hobbit”

  1. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    Except, which clown executive would trust them?
    No Eastern Europe. Similar scenery which Aussie doesn’t have.
    Its the bloody Muslims again.

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  2. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    Australian Apples to be used at mealtimes. No NZ apples to ever be used. They are diseased apparently.

    Don’t we just love them. No doubt Goff is in full support of the Union demands.

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  3. starboard (2,537 comments) says:

    …chris carters gota be at fault somehow…

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  4. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Every now and then I forget how much Aussie generraly piss me off… but then they remind me.

    They’ve made etheir own film indrustry a dying backwater and now they want to fuck ours for us too.

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  5. tvb (4,422 comments) says:

    The film industry does not like Unions imposing minimum labour standards nor does it like paying tax. In fact it likes to get tax grants. I am not that impressed with the film industry f they cannot meet the reasonable expectations of the community. What is their net benefit to the economy? Not that much I suspect.

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  6. tom hunter (4,843 comments) says:

    So yesterday, when Inky The Red wrote the following:

    In part must of the investment is due to Australian Unions being stronger than their Kiwi counterparts. They have forced up wage of workers meaning the way to be more competitive is to buy more modern plant and use that to make money.

    This is what he was thinking of. It probably will raise the wages of Australians. Yes to Mercantilism. Down with free trade.

    Besides, what’s a capitalist oppressor doing in three unions? Sounds subversive to me.

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  7. sonic (2,818 comments) says:

    Sorry David I don’t buy it. I assume that other productions have had agreements with the union, what has changed this time?

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  8. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Sure we could pay everyone more and give them all residules. Course it will be the last international film made here because they’ll just all bugger off to Eastern Europe.

    Newsflash chronic, no one gives a crap what you buy you adherance to that failed religion “socialism” is well known.

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  9. sonic (2,818 comments) says:

    “residules”

    Sorry Murray that is a word that I’ve ever came across, perhaps I missed it when I read all those books at Uni (while learning my socialist religion)

    Care to give us a translation into English?

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  10. tom hunter (4,843 comments) says:

    Sorry Murray that is a word that I’ve ever came across,…

    Perhaps Sonic and his book learning can be applied to translate the following:

    With. Petard. His. Hoist. Own.

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  11. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    Sproull’s Law strikes again.

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  12. wreck1080 (3,917 comments) says:

    Two sides to every story.

    From what I understand, this union is requesting ‘standard’ contracts for the actors, similar to the usual contracts offered in the US . It is currently unclear as to whether actors will be paid royalties for DVD’s/merchandising etc.

    The union wants this clarified for all actors on the film.

    This seems fair enough to me, but this should never have reached the news.

    Although, you do wonder if the Aussie union is trying to shutdown NZ film production, in the hope they will become the benefactors.

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  13. hj (7,021 comments) says:

    Will be interesting to read the Red Frogs response.
    http://blog.greens.org.nz/

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  14. MikeE (555 comments) says:

    Dont’ get me started on the Union approval process for visiting entertainers. This whole thing is a scam that generates millions of dollars of revenue (in the form of “application fees”) for entertainment Visas.

    And of course this rort allows unions to disallow visas for people whom they disagree with politically.

    The best bit – the bloody national party SUPPORT this (at least they did when David Garrett asked a question about it in parliament) because it apparently “protects kiwi jobs” (as if an entertainer on a massive salary is going to come here and steal a union members McDonalds job).

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  15. davidp (3,581 comments) says:

    The Labour Party need to make their position clear on this issue. Do they stand behind their union friends, or the NZ film industry?

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  16. lyndon (325 comments) says:

    The Jackson statment http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/CU1009/S00283/statement-regarding-the-hobbit-and-claims-by-meaa.htm seems to be implying they’re actually complaining about the decision to give non-union actors residuals. (Or possibly it’s the lack of a closed shop, which I gather does happen in the US.)

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  17. redqueen (562 comments) says:

    It’s days like this having a decent military and navy would have advantages…then we wouldn’t have to take this crap. Alternatively, we could always threaten to boycott Australian-made goods. Alas, I doubt we’ll do either and just be bullied like a bunch of cowards.

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  18. RightNow (6,994 comments) says:

    Those Aussie pricks. I’m going to start a charity with the goal of providing free airfares to any NZ long term beneficiary who wants to move to Oz. That’ll f*ck em.

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  19. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    The upside is we wont get another shitty dwarf movie.

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  20. MyNameIsJack (2,415 comments) says:

    So another day, another Right Wing Bash the Workers post.

    Funny, I didn’t see you whinge and moan when Cameron threated to pull Avatar from NZ if he didn’t get massive tax breaks. You know, high private profits, subsidised by the taxes of ordinary workers.

    Typical of the Right – screw the workers wages as low as you can go, then tax what little they have to ensure your wealthy get even wealthier.

    Juts what is wrong with paying a decent wage to those who do the work?

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  21. Viking2 (11,471 comments) says:

    Nor the income it bringsti Kiwi’s.
    More unemployment.
    Pay them but don’t watch their fucking awful movies. No royalties.

    We have a choice.

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  22. trout (939 comments) says:

    Nothing wrong with paying a decent wage but lest you forget film making is a very high risk enterprise. Sure, you have heard of the zillions in profits but do you also know about the zillions in losses? Investors take a risk and create jobs – get it.

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  23. James Stephenson (2,180 comments) says:

    So another day, another Right Wing Bash the Workers post.

    Actors, not workers, actors.

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  24. redqueen (562 comments) says:

    MyNameIsJack @ 10.20 – The issue here isn’t whether the ‘right wing’ is trying to ‘screw the workers’. The point is that an Australian union, which is trying to benefit itself, is attempting to subvert NZ workers through a process that cannot be legally resolved. I think DPF has made the point quite well: under our own laws here, only a registered union can enter a collective agreement, which isn’t possible in this instance. Also, the wages aren’t actually being mentioned. What’s being complained about is that a collective agreement hasn’t been signed, not that the workers are actually being poorly paid. I’m sorry, but that isn’t a political statement of ‘the right wing’, it’s an example of greedy individuals attempting to harm others. If you can’t see the Australian manipulation here, you’re blind. The workers will suffer, but not because of some right-wing plot.

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  25. cabbage (455 comments) says:

    Juts what is wrong with paying a decent wage to those who do the work?

    Nothing, provided you don’t mind the collapse of the film industry in NZ, and the resultant loss of said ‘work’.

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  26. david (2,557 comments) says:

    MNIJ … Aaaahem. Obviously you have your fingers on the detail.. Can you please advise when Avatar was conceived and made? I know it was released after the election but would have thougt that it took more than 18 months to set-up and produce.

    So just who agreed to the “tax-breaks” you mention?

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  27. david (2,557 comments) says:

    One of the main attractions for NZ as a venue is that we have multiskilled and talented workers who perform for the production company. This has really pissed off underpaid, single-skilled, underworked drones, employed by a manning scale that would embarrass even Matt McCarten in its extravagant use of unnecessary bodies, that the union in Hollywood insists on using.

    The upshot is that rather than improve the attraction of making movies locally, they have embarked on a campaign to reduce the attractiveness of alternatives. It is classic union ploy “if we can’t have it here, we will make sure you can’t have it there either”.

    Make no mistake, they destroyd the Australian Film industry the same way and are now leapfrogging their destructive tactics across the Tasman.

    BTW, I am not in favour of incentivising any industry with public funds. If the Gummint needs to invest, let it be on a basis that it shares the rewards.

    Having said that, I haven’t seen the numbers but rumour has it that the LOR trilogy made more for the government throught PAYE and GST than it cost so the balance sheet may not always be so one sided.

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  28. Brian Smaller (4,023 comments) says:

    MNIJ – you are a broken record

    So another day, another Right Wing Bash the Workers post.

    Most of the people who sign up for a part in the Hobbit would do it for nothing I suspect. I know people who spent all night filming scenes of LoTR and went back to work at 0800 the next day. They did it for weeks on end. They didn’t care about their ‘movie’ pay, they just wanted to be part of something special (to them).

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  29. david (2,557 comments) says:

    Oh Brian, how dare unpaid volunteers take jobs from the underpaid professional actors who deserve a living wage as of right.

    Next thing you will be arguing that prisoners should grow their own vegetables on the prison farm thus depriving market gardeners of their market.

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  30. MikeE (555 comments) says:

    “So another day, another Right Wing Bash the Workers post.”

    This isn’t about bashing workers. This is about unions having an effective Veto on who can and cannot enter the country.

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  31. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Fuck em. The number of “actors” around thse days who aren’t bleeding heart liberals gushing over communist totalitarians world wide or pushing bullshit watermelon propaganda down our throats at every opportunity is so small I wouldn’t miss the whole damn treacherous commie loving industry.

    If Hollywood went down freedom and civilisation and human dignity would step forward a light year.

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  32. Crusader (314 comments) says:

    Irony is that to escape Lefty bully-boys, Peter Jackson is having to look to Eastern Europe.

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  33. Jeremy Harris (319 comments) says:

    How the hell does a Union have control over Immigration law..?

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  34. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    Jackson’s problem is he purchased a great big F##k-OFF status sysmbol – his private jet. Before that the lefties loved him because they were able to stick their heads in the sand and pretend that socialist policies hadn’t made him fantastically disgustingly wealthy.

    From defending the Labour govt for giving him tax breaks to shooting him down for being a rich prick. Cause and effect is something socialists never understand – if they did they wouldn’t support socialism.

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  35. labrator (1,850 comments) says:

    Brian Smaller has hit the nail on the head. I was speaking to an actor mate the other day (they all received letters via their agents urging them to join the boycott) and one of the motivating factors is the number of unpaid extras being used. The unions and actors see this as reducing their income and so want to force the film industry to pay volunteers the minimum wage and as a result employing more *legitimate* actors. I can see how this could destroy a budget very quickly.

    Oh and MNIJ, I objected to the tax breaks at the time as a big suck up and vote buying by Labour. I don’t know why the government is in the entertainment industry other than the obvious political reasons.

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  36. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    So another day, another Right Wing Bash the Workers post.

    Yes Jackson seems to be so committed to ‘screwing the workers’ that he has established a fund from the films profits to make sure Kiwi and Aussie actors get the same benefits as the SAG demands for their US counterparts….

    MNIJ, maybe you should investigate an issue more before engaging in your typical knee jerk fashion. What Jackson is doing is ensuring Kiwi actors benefit MORE from the films profits!

    The issue here seems to be a union who has very little to do with the film objecting to non-union actors receiving the same benefits as unionized actors. This is all about a union trying to enlarge and then protect its turf.

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  37. ben (2,380 comments) says:

    To me, what is most ludicrous is that it is apparently illegal for anyone in New Zealand, no matter how adult and consenting, to strike a collective bargain with a union not registered here.

    Christ it’s a wonder anything ever gets done in this sad little country.

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  38. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    OK, so who is the new poster boy/girl for the political arm of the unions? Which struggling nobody will Goff help become rich to help him win an election before he/she is dumped for earning more than a beneficiary a few years later ?

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  39. burt (8,269 comments) says:

    ben

    When we have the political arm of the union running the country the country is run in the best interest of the unions. It’s OK though because the unions have red flags and red flags mean GOOD – Blue flags are BAD.

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  40. dime (9,972 comments) says:

    “Jackson’s problem is he purchased a great big F##k-OFF status sysmbol – his private jet.”

    lol very true

    what did he buy? gulfstream 550?

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  41. Bevan (3,924 comments) says:

    To me, what is most ludicrous is that it is apparently illegal for anyone in New Zealand, no matter how adult and consenting, to strike a collective bargain with a union not registered here.

    What makes you think you would be able to do the same in Australia with a union not registered there? Or in Hollywood with a non-US union?

    What is ridiculous is a Australian Union trying to ruin a production in NZ.

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  42. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    MyNameIsJack (1,574) Says:

    September 27th, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Jack why don’t you and your enlarged socail conscience get off your collective (Like?) arses and go and assist the poor ChCh residents of Bexley who have issues, rather than being th resident contarian here.

    You actually doing something rather than pissing and moaning may do some good,, Hold on sorry, people like you don’t want to actually do anything they just want to tell others how to behave, on second thoughts just fuck off

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  43. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    So another day, another Right Wing Bash the Workers post.

    Really? I can’t see why any worker would want to support a union so incompetently run it’s been struck off the Registrar of Incorporated Societies for not meeting the hardly onerous statutory requirements. That kind of incompetence might fly Sydney-side, but I wouldn’t want these numpties speaking for me.

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  44. Stuart Mackey (337 comments) says:

    What also is a concern here is this Aussie union, acting in NZ in an illegal manner, is trying to force NZ actors to join it, effectively though the threat of ending the production.
    If I recall correctly do we not have a bit of law saying we have the right to freedom of association?

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  45. Fot (252 comments) says:

    I hate unions with a passion, all of them are run by scum and all of them are parasites.

    However, on this issue I just could not care, the quality of Kiwi “actors” is so pathetic that the demise of the film industry would be no big loss.

    Come to think of it, the tax payer should not be funding “the arts” at all, NZSO, the Royal NZ Ballet etc.., all of them should have their funding pulled immediately, if they are any good they will make it on their own, if not then let them die.

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  46. Magnanomis (138 comments) says:

    Gollum: Where would you be without MEAA, gollum, gollum? I saved us! It was me! We survived because of MEAA!

    Smeagol (crying): Not anymore.

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  47. Put it away (2,878 comments) says:

    Bastards, scum, thugs, lazy, shifty, dishonest, liars. Union, in other words.

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  48. RRM (9,924 comments) says:

    GO TO THEIR UNION MEETING.

    LEAVE NONE ALIVE.

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  49. angry_actor (1 comment) says:

    IT’S ALL ABOUT ME – THE ATTEMPTED BOYCOTT OF THE HOBBIT

    So I went to the Actors Equity (NZ actors union) meeting in Auckland on tuesday night and what a joke it was! The place was running on pure emotion and unfortunately logic and commonsense were in short supply, oh and no media or producers were allowed, oh how convenient. The additional brawn behind this boycott the MEAA (the Australian? actors union) have been struck of the register of New Zealand companies for failing to submit it’s required financial returns. Hmmm, seems like they don’t particularly care much about New Zealand or it’s actors if they can’t even be bothered pursuing the appropriate legal avenues to represent them. At the meeting they blamed their previously employed lawyers! So for three years they didn’t even notice the absence of these returns? They were probably too busy wrecking their own film industry judging from Disney having recently pulled out of Australia.

    The arrogance and selfishness of Actors Equity and MEAA in forcing their own agenda of higher wages in New Zealand (Actors Equity the NZ union has about 200 members!) is unbelievable their actions could potentially damage the incomes of hard working New Zealand film crews, post production staff, actors and extras indefinitely not to mention pissing off the loyal audiences of these films. I agree that it sucks that New Zealand actors aren’t paid as much as overseas actors but money is better than no money right? And if you want to earn as much as overseas actors why don’t you go overseas seeing if you are so confident of your ability’s to act and sabotage New Zealand’s acting community.

    It seems they haven’t noticed this world is in the middle of an recession which will be getting a lot worse and a $200,000,000 investment in this country is vitally needed and four million New Zealanders would all stand to benefit from this…. but 200 fabulously talented and obviously selfish Actors Equity actors want to earn more and will stand by their confident stupid boycott and wave The Hobbits two films goodbye as they travel to Eastern Europe to set up camp.

    The MEAA apparently has the endorsements of Ian Macallen, Hugo Weaving and other key actors well where are they then? None of these actors has issued statements regarding this all I heard from the MEAA was that they endorse the boycott. Well sorry thats not good enough, in an all out public fight you’d better have more than second hand accounts.

    And now to the abbreviation M.E.A.A it seems that if you go along with them, it really is all about ME eh?

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