'Hobbit' law to remain with collective bargaining amendment

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 13 Jun 2019, 4:39PM
The law change was introduced after industrial action around The Hobbit movies. (Photo / Getty)

'Hobbit' law to remain with collective bargaining amendment

Newstalk ZB, NZ Herald ,
Publish Date
Thu, 13 Jun 2019, 4:39PM

The Government will introduce a new law to allow film industry workers to collectively bargain from next year, but striking will be illegal and the "Hobbit" law will not be repealed.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway made the announcement today, saying that this option would benefit more workers than a straight repeal of the Hobbit law.

While the mechanisms - including the dispute resolution process and who exactly will be covered - are yet to be worked out in detail, it is hoped the new collective agreements will provide industry-wide standards.

Individual contracts will still be permitted, but would have to at least meet the minimum standards of the collective agreement.

New Zealand is considered a favourable place to make films, but the Government offers screen production grants to help tip the balance in a competitive global market.

Budget 2019 added $25 million to the domestic filming grant and $130 million to the international filming grant.

Lees-Galloway said the Government's new law, which will be based on the recommended model of a cross-industry group, provided certainty and flexibility to the industry.

But the Government rejected the group's recommendation to expand the Hobbit law from the film and video games industries to all screen production work.

"The model will apply to screen production work such as on films, drama serials, commercials and video games," Lees-Galloway said.

"Its exact coverage will be determined during drafting in consultation with the industry."

The law will be introduced later this year and changes are expected to pass into law in mid-2020.

Key points:

  • Universal terms are expected to ensure good faith between parties, protection from bullying and harassment, minimum pay rates, agreed breaks, hours of work and availability, dispute resolution processes, and termination processes.
  • Clear processes will be set out for how bargaining is initiated, carried out and concluded.
  • The details of a dispute resolution system and who exactly will be covered are still to be worked out, but industrial action will be prohibited.
  • Collective agreements will apply to all covered contractors, either at an enterprise level or an occupational level.
  • Occupational groups may include performers, technicians, writers, visual effects artists, and game developers. Exemptions will be possible.
  • Individual contracts will continue to be possible, as long as they meet the minimum terms of any relevant collective agreement.
  • Any productions underway or in a sufficiently advanced stage of planning are not expected to be affected.

The Hobbit law was passed under urgency after negotiations between the National-led Government and Warner Bros executives in 2010, after a threat to take the shooting of the films to offshore locations.

The furore was over a union attempt to engage the company and workers in collective bargaining, which led to heated exchanges and angry street protests.

In practical terms, the law made film industry workers all contractors, who could not legally collectively bargain.

Previously, workers could potentially disrupt a production by testing their worker status and, if confirmed as an employee, start collectively bargaining. It was this uncertainty that was highlighted as potentially keeping film producers from making productions in New Zealand.

But the law effectively denied rights to film industry workers that were available to other workers in New Zealand.

Lees-Galloway said today's announcement righted that wrong.