NZ Actors Equity union hits back at Peter Jackson...
The NZ Actors Equity union has hit back at Sir Peter Jackson’s claim their actions are threatening the continued filming of The Hobbit in New Zealand.
“The union is simply seeking an opportunity to sit down calmly with the producers to find a suitable solution,” says President Jennifer Ward-Lealand.
The union has taken advice from a barrister specialising in competition law and say:
“There’s no legal impediment to negotiating fair wages and terms for actors taken on as employees.
“Nothing in the Act prohibits us from having some meaningful engagement with the producers on non-price terms for actors taken on as independent contractors, such as rolling credits to acknowledge New Zealand actors' input into the movie.
“Nor does the Act prohibit us from discussing pricing in general terms with the producers to enable us to help our independent contractor members in their individual negotiations with producers. The union accepts that these could only be recommended prices - nothing more.”
In his earlier press release Jackson said the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance’s “demand that producers on the film enter into collective bargaining with NZ Equity/MEAA” was illegal under New Zealand law.
The stoush erupted when the Australian actor’s union, the MEAA, asked actors to boycott filming of The Hobbit until a standard employment agreement was reached. The union was concerned actors on the film were being employed on inferior non-union contracts.
Jackson says the union's actions could jeopardise the New Zealand movie industry, resulting in a long - term big budget movie drought. He has also threatened to move production of The Hobbit to Eastern Europe.
Ward-Lealand says the union just wants to secure a meeting with the production team for The Hobbit.
“I can assure the producers that our requirements are entirely reasonable. Many relate to basic conditions of engagement with no cost implications at all, and the overall impact of our demands is likely to be miniscule for a production of this scale.
“As we’ve been unable to secure a meeting with the production, Sir Peter does not yet have any idea of what we’re seeking,” she says.
However, Jackson says the Screen Production and Development Association (Spada) has tried to meet with the MEAA for 18 months without success.
Yesterday The Hobbit’s producers made several requests to attend a Wellington union meeting, at which some actors voted against the union’s proposals, but were refused entry shortly before it started.
It is not usual policy for management or owners to attend union meetings.
This dispute is undoubtably having some affect on Jackson's standing and mana within New Zealand.
Acknowledgements: 3 News /Reuters