Martin Kay at Stuff reports:
The letter, from The International Federation of Actors, was sent to the US directors of production company 3 Foot 7 Ltd on August 17, warning that the federation had instructed its members no to act in the film until the producers had entered into bargaining with the union.
Sir Peter said that letter was the first time he had been made aware of the issue.
“It was the first time a meeting was ever requested and it was clear from the letter they had already voted to blacklist us, before even asking for one conversation with me,” he said.
“I am sick and tired of hearing [union NZ Actors] Equity say ‘All we ever wanted was a meeting’, because it’s disingenuous. They fail to add that from the outset, they had a gun to our head.”
“It just made me incredibly angry, I wondered how can a union behave like this? How could Simon Whipp [Australian union representative from the Media, Entertainment & Artists’ Alliance, or MEAA] initiate an international strike action against our film with no prior vote from the Kiwi membership?”
Sir Peter said he decided to release the letter after NZ Actors Equity circulated an email to its members yesterday saying all it sought was to “meet with the production and discuss the conditions under which performers would be engaged”.
“It amazes me that the executive officer of NZ Actor’s Equity can walk roughshod over our industry and the union itself fails to adhere to the most basic principles of democratic process,” he said.
“NZ Equity has given Simon Whipp absolute power and no one seems to care if he abuses it. He can threaten the livelihoods of thousands of Kiwis, jeopardise a huge financial investment to this country and he’s not held accountable. It’s unbelievable.”
So much for “We just wanted to talk”. What is also fascinating is there was no local vote in favour of a boycott it seems – Whipp instituted it presumably on his own authority, or the authority of his Australian overlords?
Sadly it looks like we will all pay the price for Mr Whipp’s actions, and end up having to give a greater subsidy to Warners. And there is absolutely no way at all that would have happened without the MEAA’s antics, as everything was set to start without disruption.
One could of course cut our nose off to spite our face, and refuse to do a sweetener to Warners. Part of me thinks we should, but really the price too pay would be far too high – we would not be losing one film, but an entire industry. I’d rather not having thousands more people unemployed and receiving welfare payments.
In a perfect world, the Government could just send MEAA a bill for the additional sweetener to Warners. They are the ones who incurred it.