Surely only the blindest New Zealanders would not be appalled at the outcome of government negotiations on the Hobbit movies.
Not only has John Key increased taxpayer handouts from $60 million to $93 million for this wealthiest of corporates but it is passing a special law to allow producer Sir Peter Jackson to employ all movie workers as contractors, whether or not the current law would regard them as employees.
Both were paid $14 an hour for this rostered work but that's where the similarity ended. The contractor was far worse off. He was not covered by the provisions of the Employment Relations Act so was not entitled to sick pay, holiday pay, paid breaks or the employee protections under the Employment Relations Act. He was powerless when his hours were chopped and changed and he lost the right to be treated with dignity and respect by his employer. The television company liked the arrangement because they got a "flexible" worker on the cheap.
We won that case at the Employment Court but it was a lon, arduous path that got us there. A similar path was trodden by James Bryson, a model-maker for the Lord of the Rings movies who successfully applied to be regarded as an employee. That was all too much for Peter Jackson so the government is now removing that right to apply to the courts for workers in the movie industry at the behest of a powerful corporation and its local semi-hysterical agent. What a disgrace.
Peter Jackson doesn't want to have to worry about employee rights. He doesn't want to have to pay for holidays or pay when people are sick. He doesn't want to worry about providing minimum paid breaks at work. This arrogant, manic man wants union-free projects where he can get away with medieval employment practices while in all likelihood earning more from this project than all the Hobbit contractors put together.
John Key is obliging - happy to remove these workers' rights to the protections of the Employment Relations Act so Jackson and Warners can pocket these workers' employment benefits in cash for themselves.
No wonder Jackson told the government he felt "enormous gratitude". All that government money for nothing and the prospect of even bigger personal gains for himself. Jackson's behaviour throughout this sorry episode has been reprehensible.
In a statement, Jackson praised the government decision to introduce the legislation, which he said would give "everyone in the film industry certainty as to their employment status". He said the clarification would "provide much needed stability and reassurance for film workers as well as investors from within New Zealand and overseas".
What sickening and demeaning comments. They are best translated as "Every movie industry worker will now know for sure they are second-class workers without the protections of New Zealand employment law. There will now be greater certainty for investor profits at the expense of taxpayers and the rights of workers on the Hobbit project."
Employers like contracting for obvious reasons. Plenty of local and foreign corporations will be licking their lips and watching for their own chance to get a bit of "contractor" action to drive down pay and conditions of employment even further in New Zealand.
I don't often agree with Herald editorials but their description of New Zealand paying an "extortionate" price for the films to be made here is 100 per cent accurate.
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