Hobbit bill becomes law

  • Breaking
  • 29/10/2010

By Dan Satherley

Parliament has passed the controversial Hobbit bill into law, under urgency.

Officially known as the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill, it clarifies the difference between contractors and employees in the film industry.

“It clarifies what is already widespread industry practice," says Minister of Labour Kate Wilkinson. "That actors, crew members and other production personnel in the film industry who sign on as independent contractors are just that, independent contractors.

"If they sign on as an employee, they are an employee."

National, ACT, the Maori Party and United Future all voted in favour of the bill.

The law is aimed at stopping contractors one day saying they are an employee, and claiming the extra benefits that come with being one.

Special effects contractor/employee James Bryson took legal action against Sir Peter Jackson five years ago, after being made redundant. He claimed he was an employee, and the court ruled in his favour.

This, along with threats of a boycott from actors' unions, rattled studio executives at Warner Brothers. National ministers in the past have both denied Warner Bros asked for the law change, and said without it, Warner Bros would pull the film.

Labour's Clare Curran said the law change was completely unrelated to threats of a boycott made by actors' unions.

"That was about independent contractors wanting to remain as independent contractors but to negotiate collectively. This law change is about whether an independent contractor can be considered to be an employee," she said.

Labour's Claude Chauvel, who acted as a lawyer for in the 2005 Bryson case, said the law change would create more uncertainty, and will have the opposite effect to what the Government plans.

"It is simply a recipe for further uncertainty and more litigation - the exact opposite of what John Key appears to have promised Warner Bros and Peter Jackson and everybody else," he told stuff.co.nz.

"We've got a bad law, achieving the reverse of what's intended being passed under a defective process."

Labour MP Trevor Mallard held up a depiction of the New Zealand flag with the film-maker's logo in place of the Union Jack in Parliament today.

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