The Australian union and the Hobbit

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 the Hobbit is even worse than that, and may lead to the shut down of much of the NZ film industry – if the Hobbit 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 unions 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 Peter Jackson to do what they call for. Why? Under the current law, only a registered union can enter into a collective contract, and the MEAA 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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