Trotter on The Hobbit

October 27th, 2010 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

writes:

How did a tiny union’s attempt to improve the lot of its members end up convulsing the entire nation?

Oh that is easy. The second they called for, and got, a global boycott of .

The left time after time after time ignore this rather salient point. They talk just about wanting to negotiate.

A global boycott of a film is the nuclear bomb of industrial negotiations. If you use it, then it causes massive damage.

What NZ Actors’ Equity tried to do here would scarcely have rated a mention in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland or Australia. Actors, film technicians, specialists of every kind in those countries negotiate with the big film studios all the time.

Again, Chris entirely misses the point. Negotiations are common – global boycotts are rare. And even worse, the global boycott was instituted based on a demand that was illegal for the producers to agree to.

Only recently, Irish film- makers successfully concluded an industry-wide collective agreement. Ireland, you’ll recall, was identified by Sir Peter Jackson’s people as one of the places to which location shooting for The Hobbit might be shifted.

Huh?

Why would you shift location filming to a country that already has an industry- wide collective agreement because workers in your own country were attempting to negotiate something very similar for themselves?

It doesn’t make sense.

It does make sense. Chris needs to talk to people in the industry – as I have.

Warners and he like are fairly relaxed about whether a country’s film industry is unionised or non-unionised. Under both these scenarios, they can calculate the cost of doing business.

What they don’t want to be anywhere near, is a country which is non unionised, and a union is trying to unionise the entire acting industry (despite miniscule membership), and wants to use your film as the vehicle for doing so.

This is not rocket science.

Unless the entire controversy has been manufactured; unless all that we have witnessed since September 28, when Sir Peter Jackson launched a very public broadside against the actors’ union, is a cleverly spun fiction. A tale replete with noble hero (Sir Peter) and evil villains (the unions) designed to exculpate its authors from any and all blame for taking The Hobbit offshore.

Chris ignores the obvious answer, which I supplied, and which he could get by talking to any producer. Instead he turns to conspiracy theories.

Also happy will be that permanent combination of anti-union interests. Thanks to The Hobbit controversy, the CTU’s “Fairness at Work” campaign lies dead in the water.

Not thanks to The Hobbit. Thanks to Helen Kelly who disastrously changed the focus from  Simon Whipp to the CTU. Bad enough she became the de facto spokesperson for the union, but she then personally insulted Peter Jackson.

I especially enjoyed the irony of Sir Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshops-organised “Save The Hobbit” rallies on – of all days – Labour Day.

The irony was wonderful but again Chris is wrong. They were not organised by Weta Workshop. They were organised by an Auckland actor – D Mark Harrison, on his own initiative.

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59 Responses to “Trotter on The Hobbit”

  1. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    This from a man who endorses courruption as a valid means to bring the Left back to power. It has all the gravitas of a 7 year old child saying “you’re a stinky poo.”

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  2. Robinson 666 (115 comments) says:

    Warner Bro’s didn’t get the tax breaks they demanded from John Key, bye bye Hobbit, bye bye jobs.

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  3. Brian Smaller (4,037 comments) says:

    Again, Chris entirely misses the point. Negotiations are common – global boycotts are rare. And even worse, the global boycott was instituted based on a demand that was illegal for the producers to agree to.

    When your opening gambit is “we’ll shut you down” there isn’t much wiggle room left.

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  4. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    So Chris Trotterhas decided to tell WB to piss off as well as the unionists who would rather argue the toss after the call than just STFU and let others try and save the situation.

    Take a look at the socialist selfiishness and think before you vote people.

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  5. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Warners wouldn’t even be here talking to the Govt. if it wasn’t for the nobs causing the ruckus in the first place, now if they do take it out of NZ watch the labour wankers try and blame the Govt.

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  6. Dave Stringer (188 comments) says:

    Your point is well made David. This is not about the desires of the majority of actors based in New Zealand, it is about the aspirations of an Australian based union to increase New Zealand membership through leverage of an international ‘brotherhood’ of unions. Playing the boycott card as they did has almost certainly ensured that the local industry is going to lose all future ‘international’ investment, and be reduced to local product for local consumption. This despite the fortune that Sir Peter, his wife and colleagues have invested in creating a world-class capability here in Wellington.

    Sad to say, the tall-poppy syndrome is alive and well – almost as alive as the Australian film industry’s envy gene.

    When the time comes, I hope we do a really GREAT goodbye/closing-down party for Weta and all the other great businesses that were created by these patriots’ love of their homeland.

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  7. Pita (373 comments) says:

    What is also overlooked by the left and the MSM are the terms and conditions that so vexed some of the Actors and the Union…other than their reasonable request to sit down and negotiate…negotiate what? I understand that the contractual terms and conditions for New Zealand actors were some of the most generous ever offered?

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  8. TripeWryter (715 comments) says:

    Stuff reports this, this morning …

    Sir Peter Jackson today released a letter which he said proved the actors’ unions had already decided to blacklist The Hobbit before requesting a meeting with him.

    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.”

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  9. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    It was always going to be spun by the Lefties. Truth and honour are not heir bedfellows.

    Trevor Mallard has commented poorly, but we wait with expectation for Goff to tell his wise words on the whole debacle.

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  10. burt (8,198 comments) says:

    Chris Trotter spins the facts to make the unions look pure – I’m stunned !

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  11. burt (8,198 comments) says:

    Hey Chris, what about a few union thugs paying a visit on John Key with a bit of lead pipe…. Good romantic ‘stick it to the man’ stuff that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy about the good old 1800’s methods eh….

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  12. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    Fucking commies.

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  13. Scumsucker (59 comments) says:

    Deregister the CTU, Actors’ Equity and the PPTA using your two large testicles, John Key.
    Or are you the son that Helen Clark didn’t have?

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  14. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    Oh god there’s a mental picture no one needed.

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  15. Russell Brown (405 comments) says:

    From Totter:

    Only recently, Irish film- makers successfully concluded an industry-wide collective agreement. Ireland, you’ll recall, was identified by Sir Peter Jackson’s people as one of the places to which location shooting for The Hobbit might be shifted.

    Huh?

    Huh, indeed. It would help if people could get this right. What Irish Equity secured last month — after patient lobbying — was an amendment to Irish competition law explicitly providing for independent contractors to collectively bargain for standard industry conditions in defined circumstances.

    It was an important win, and it indicates how much more productive Irish Equity’s strategy has been than that of its NZ counterpart. It was ironic that Simon Whipp yesterday declared his “hope” that similar legislation could be passed here. The chance of that now would appear to be somewhat less than zero.

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

    It looks like reality still has a restraining order out against Chris Trotter.

    He forgot to mention that Irish Equity also spend years lobbying (successfully) for a law change that allowed actors to negotiate that collective agreement he’s so fond of, without breaking Irish competition law.

    Something the MEAA/NZ Actors Equity might have achieved if it was minimally competent.

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  17. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    Why do people keep saying MEAA? Robyn Malcom said its nothing to do with Aussies unions.

    Why does that pratt from MEAA keeping talking too… Robyn wouldn’t lie to us would she?

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  18. slightlyrighty (2,507 comments) says:

    The union tactics in this “negotiation” have been mindbogglingly bad, unless of course the goal was to nobble the industry in NZ.

    Simon Whipp is either deceitful or incompetent, and i suspect it’s the latter if his track record is anyting to go by.

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  19. Russell Brown (405 comments) says:

    Stuff reports this, this morning …

    Sir Peter Jackson today released a letter which he said proved the actors’ unions had already decided to blacklist The Hobbit before requesting a meeting with him.

    Yup. Some of our readers put together the timeline yesterday.

    I do actually think Warners played hardball with the union last week. But it would be a bit rich to complain now that it’s clear how the MEAA kicked things off.

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  20. RightNow (6,968 comments) says:

    Russell Brown – I’ve enjoyed your post on this topic, and the diversity of comments.

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  21. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    I find it hard to believe that Chris Trotter doesn’t have access to the same facts as DPF.

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  22. OTGO (538 comments) says:

    This ain’t Ireland Russell.

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  23. Natty Girl (8 comments) says:

    I got an email from my Canadian brother in law who is a film producer. According to him this was “as bad as it gets” and ended with “the Canadian film industry thanks the CTU for the opportunity to pitch for the Hobbit”.
    He said Montreal union has attempted a similar stunt and no one filmed there for years. they will pull out, and they do.

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  24. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    MEAA came out with a tac nuke and want to bitch about Warning playing hard ball? Theres a hard sell. sure you want to try that Russell, got some three day old fish you could try and flog off.

    Rightnow Trotter and reality met once, Trotter slipped off like reality was teflon.

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  25. Russell Brown (405 comments) says:

    MEAA came out with a tac nuke and want to bitch about Warning playing hard ball? Theres a hard sell

    Murray, that’s what I was saying

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  26. Murray (8,844 comments) says:

    Well lets be reasonable Russell, its not like we’re acustomed to you actually saying anything we’re likely to jump on board with is it.

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  27. J Mex (188 comments) says:

    Pita (267) Says: October 27th, 2010 at 10:33 am
    What is also overlooked by the left and the MSM are the terms and conditions that so vexed some of the Actors and the Union…other than their reasonable request to sit down and negotiate…negotiate what? I understand that the contractual terms and conditions for New Zealand actors were some of the most generous ever offered?

    Correct. What is conveniently overlooked is the following:

    – Peter Jackson’s recent films have excellent pay and working conditions (ref: Robynne Malcom)
    – The Hobbit had excellent pay and working conditions
    – A small union requested a meeting to set industry working conditions, for all actors on set – not just union members, with an aim to negotiate industry standards
    – PJ’s response was, “What you are asking for is a) currently illegal and b) should be taken up with an industry body – SPADA. I’m not the guy to set the entire industry’s guidelines”
    – The Union’s response was to implement a global boycott.

    Forgetting the illegality argument, I guess a (very) rough analogy is a (deregistered?) Union of a couple of hundred teachers turning up at Auckland Grammar, and saying “we don’t work here but we want to set working conditions for all teachers”. Auckland Grammar respond, – “Actually, we have excellent conditions for our teachers and it’s not really up for us to meet with you. Go talk to the Education Industry body (govt).”

    Then the Union implement an international ban on teachers teaching at Auckland Grammar.

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  28. John Gibson (295 comments) says:

    “The union tactics in this “negotiation” have been mindbogglingly bad, unless of course the goal was to nobble the industry in NZ.”

    Perhaps that was the plan by the Australian unions ? Kill off a competitor.

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  29. RightNow (6,968 comments) says:

    Muray: “Rightnow Trotter and reality met once, Trotter slipped off like reality was teflon.” – very good, but I’ve never given Trotter any credit for being rational. I was complimenting Russell Brown on the post he did at Public Address and the massive comment thread, nothing to do with Trotter.

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  30. NeilM (370 comments) says:

    “I do actually think Warners played hardball with the union last week.”

    genuine question, as I’ve been able to get to the bottom of it and you might know more – what was it Warners hoped to get out of what happened? It seemed to me more to do with confused communication.

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  31. RightNow (6,968 comments) says:

    For anyone who hasn’t checked out Public Address, the comments thread seems to include a number of well informed people.
    A recent comment says this: http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,2769,hard-news-anatomy-of-a-shambles.sm?p=187675#post187675

    From the latest letter sent to NZAE members from MEAA
    “All NZ Equity sought was to meet with the production and discuss the
    conditions under which performers would be engaged. The request was in the first instance made privately, without the
    glare of the media on August 17″

    From that letter dated 17th August 2010

    Recently, The International Federation of Actors (FIA) became aware that the production of “The
    Hobbit” intends to hire performers under non-union contracts.
    For this reason FIA, at its most recent meeting, unanimously passed the following motion:
    “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 feature film “The
    Hobbit” until such time as the producer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the
    Media Entertainment & Arts Alliance for production in New Zealand providing for satisfactory terms and
    conditions for all performers employed on the production”.
    FIA therefore encourages you to meet immediately with representatives of the Media Entertainment and
    Arts Alliance in order to reach an agreement covering all performers engaged on this production.

    Therefore in their own words MEAA asked their affiliate unions to enact the boycott BEFORE requesting to meet with 3foot7!

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  32. Bevan (3,965 comments) says:

    Warner Bro’s didn’t get the tax breaks they demanded from John Key, bye bye Hobbit, bye bye jobs.

    Bye bye Helen Kelly…

    Bye bye Simon Whipp…

    Thanks for fucking our film industry, next time you have a hankering to visit, please go somewhere else.

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  33. shady (251 comments) says:

    Rightnow links to Public Address – Russell Brown’s Hard News. Absolutely essential reading to this whole debacle and I’ve only been reading page 38 of over 1200 comments. http://publicaddress.net/system/topic,2769,hard-news-anatomy-of-a-shambles.sm?p=187549#post187549

    The following document from Spada is linked to which gives dates and timelines. http://www.spada.co.nz/resources/mediareleases/SPADA%92S%20FACT%20SHEET%20ON%20THE%20CURRENT%20INDUSTRIAL%20SITUATION_211010.pdf

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  34. Yvette (2,765 comments) says:

    Where is the greater degree of utter ignorance – that which Trotter displays if he is being genuine, or his estimation of our ignorance if he is not being honest?

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  35. trout (933 comments) says:

    Helen Kelly is complaining that NZ (Govt.) is being dictated to by an overseas Company (Warners). Hello. Did not the call for a global boycott of the Hobbit originate in Australia; and is not the CTU acting as a proxy for the Aust. union.

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  36. Russell Brown (405 comments) says:

    Well lets be reasonable Russell, its not like we’re acustomed to you actually saying anything we’re likely to jump on board with is it.

    Heh. It’s a novel experience for me too …

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  37. davidp (3,575 comments) says:

    I’ve enjoyed the extended Hobbit thread on Public Address. It has been level headed and informative. Trotter however isn’t so impressed:

    http://bowalleyroad.blogspot.com/2010/10/public-appeal-to-public-address.html

    He’s like a throwback to the 1950s.

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  38. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    davidp,

    Really sums Trotter up well doesn’t it? All about solidarity brothers – don’t let the truth stand in the way of a good story

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  39. Positan (386 comments) says:

    I used to accept that Trotter was a leftist – but I listened to what he said because I believed his views were held sincerely and often objective and responsible.

    However, with Labour’s deafening silence on this issue, Trotter may have been presumed upon for some sort of leftist effort – but all that’s achieved has been to place him at the same basement level as every other blind-left apologist.

    He’s blown it with me – and I’ll accord no credibility to him in future.

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  40. burt (8,198 comments) says:

    He’s like a throwback to the 1950s.

    No, the 50’s were quite prosperous times in NZ, he’s a throwback to the 1800’s industrial revolution England. He probably still thinks bosses sit up all night thinking of new and exciting ways to undermine workers rights and probably still believes that socialism isn’t always doomed to end in recession.

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  41. Yvette (2,765 comments) says:

    Trotter’s appeal of the NZAE union’s simplistic innocence in this matter is matched only by Helen Kelly’s [Radio Live midday news] comment that the imminent law change is unrelated.
    But defining workers’ status [either staff or contract] is, of course, the crux of what made their initial claim illegal in New Zealand. She is as ignorant or dishonest, or both, as Trotter displays himself to be.

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  42. burt (8,198 comments) says:

    Positan

    I get what you are saying. I’m from a long line of staunch lefties with strong values of defending the little guy. Grew up in a state house in ‘poorville’ and had unemployed and minimum wage parents. Bless em – they worked hard and paid their taxes.

    I always respected Trotter even when I completely disagreed with his views but when he come out with his moronic apologist stance of ‘courageous corruption’ I gave up on him. Oh that and his swipe at me on ‘interest blog’ (see: http://www.policy.net.nz/blog/2008/09/25/i-have-met-the-enemy-and-he-is-curiously-unimpressive/ – which has been deleted)

    In that he said he quickly worked out who he was talking to, which was a complete lie becasue I introduced myself to him as ‘Hi I’m burt – I comment on your blog’. He went on to say perhaps it was the wind because he didn’t remember that I introduced myself…. The man can write well but he is a damp squid when he needs to think on his feet.

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  43. RRM (9,773 comments) says:

    In one small way Trotter is correct, his parting shot about how this will shut down Unionism for a long time.

    And it would be naive to think that Warners aren’t making the most of a free opportunity to pressure Key for some more tax incentives.

    But the filming was all on, and everyone was happy, until the union’s actions. And now in the wake of the union’s actions we stand to lose all that AND our whole multi million dollar industry. So yes it really really is all the union’s fault, that is why people are blaming the unions Chris.

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  44. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    RRM,

    Thank you for your candid comments that you see this as the unions fault (in this instance.) From previous posts I would suggest that you would normally be more inclined to favour a left-leaning view. Perhaps we might get lucky and Tom Gould, Luc Hansen and Maggie will stumble upon your comments.

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  45. RRM (9,773 comments) says:

    bhudson – thanks, I’m a leftie, but I try not to get too attached to party lines…

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  46. David Farrar (1,883 comments) says:

    RRM is what I call an honest leftie :-)

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  47. burt (8,198 comments) says:

    An honest leftie… Is that one who can say ‘Bugger shot myself in the foot’ rather than press the gun into your hand then start screaming “why did you shoot me !”.

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  48. french (7 comments) says:

    You guys are pathetic by throwing your toys at unions at every opportunity.

    How can you seriously believe a global boycott statement from an obscure union can put at risk a $500 million Holywood production !

    Warner Brothers are after money – from the NZ governement – that’s all. They are using any single argument to get John Key to write a cheque. That’s called negociation.

    And John Key, who is an opportunist without courage, is also using this to blame labour laws and prepare the public for some changes. How petty it is.

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  49. bhudson (4,736 comments) says:

    french,

    This fact has been repeated ad infinitum:

    If the unions had accepted the original conditions offered, conditions they acknowledge as reasonable, then the deal would have been closed and the incentives that other countries started to propose would have been rendered meaningless. By choosing not to accept, and particularly to drop the nuclear boycott bomb, the unions opened the opportunity to the studio to either move the production elsewhere, or to use that to leverage a better deal from NZ.

    It doesn’t matter whether the studios are inherently hard nosed or even greedy, it was the actions of the union that opened the door for them here. The unions, not anyone else. Not PJ, not the studios, not the NZ govt. Just the unions inept strategy.

    This can all now be laid at the feet of those unions – the additional money in incentives AND the change to the labour laws. They really did hand the govt a gift wrapped opportunity – one that they probably couldn’t have undertaken themselves with an election looming next year. Now they will not only get away with it, most of the workers will be joining in to congratulate them

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  50. RRM (9,773 comments) says:

    burt – shoot myself what?

    I’ve never belonged to a union, in fact there’s no union for what I do. Unless someone’s signed me up to a union without my knowledge… Was it you?

    Never drawn a benefit or worked for the gummint either btw.

    Perhaps an honest leftie is one who thinks there should be state regulation on minimum standards of behaviour, and state safety nets for the lowest common denominator, but doesn’t necessarily receive any of these things himself?

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  51. labrator (1,897 comments) says:

    If there weren’t contributors like RRM around this place would be a terrible echo chamber. I for one appreciate the input of the sensible lefties (cue outrage). As for the certifiable nutters like trotter & Helen Kelly, well, I hope they come to their senses. Optimism is free.

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  52. tankyman (120 comments) says:

    On the hobbit front. I see Robyn Malcom has gone very, very quite.

    Perhaps she has now worked out (too late) that she is doomed in NZ film and television. Im guessing she isn’t getting smiles and ‘high -fives’ in the street from people either.

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  53. Positan (386 comments) says:

    Burt – to me leftists are much, much more than those who are possessed of left-leaning views – they’re the ones who’ll lie, cheat, deceive and prevaricate to perform any corrupt act that will support or sustain their ideology. By such means they seek to influence those of lesser wit in order to manipulate them.

    As a employer for 30 years, I’ve often wondered why unions are so anti to, and so unhelpful towards, the interests of employers. If there were no employers, there’d be no jobs and no income for the unions. Every employer I knew, myself included, had to work far longer hours, carry a far heavier load of responsibility – being at all times ultimately responsible for any failing or failure of his workers – even having to necessitate their unexpected replacement if such was occasioned by illness or the like.

    Leftists are the loathsome sorts who advocate “democracy” and devoutly believe in the principle that “might is right” when applied from their side. However, when “democracy” doesn’t go their way, it’s called something else – and “might” applied by employers against their tactics is severely denounced. Sadly, they all lack any sort of business experience which might have opened their closed and sealed minds – but it seems it’ll be.

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  54. Guy Fawkes (702 comments) says:

    It isn’t just that the CTU have shot themselves in the foot. What staggers me is the speed at which they re-load.

    That Aussie union bloke with the smug smirk has gotten whatever he wanted. Whatever that was?

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  55. RightNow (6,968 comments) says:

    Is french just Maggie under a new name? Is Maggie Helen Kelly, or someone working for a union? The answer is, who cares!

    “How can you seriously believe a global boycott statement from an obscure union can put at risk a $500 million Holywood production !” – because we’ve seen it with our own eyes. In fact the whole world has seen it with their own eyes, and there’s no glossing over the fact. The ‘obscure union’ will forever hold a place in Kiwi’s hearts as ‘those pricks that ruined our film industry’

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  56. french (7 comments) says:

    “It doesn’t matter whether the studios are inherently hard nosed or even greedy, it was the actions of the union that opened the door for them here. The unions, not anyone else. Not PJ, not the studios, not the NZ govt. Just the unions inept strategy.”

    Yes the inept strategy of the unions have opened the door to this controversy – it does not mean that they are responsible for putting this huge production at risk – the cause must be elsewhere. I do not believe that the filming location in NZ was a done deal before the unions opened their mouth.

    If you kiwis want the Hobbit to be filmed in your country, save your filming industry and enjoy the long term tourism benefits you need to pay your share – and put taxpayer money into that production. Otherwise somebody else will do it. Stop moaning on unions that have almost no power.

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  57. hubbers (233 comments) says:

    Shame on Chris.

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  58. V (715 comments) says:

    @french
    Get a clue.

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  59. Maggie (674 comments) says:

    bhudson:

    Negotiation 102:

    “Never, never accept an employer’s first offer unless you know the employer is stupid. Non stupid ones will always hold something back.”

    If you need any further education, just let me know.

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