Union welcomes 'Hobbit law' changes

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E Tu union assistant secretary John Ryall says it's about time the changes were made. Photo credit: Newshub.

Film workers in New Zealand may be about to get a big break of another kind.

The Government is proposing changes to give contractors in the industry more rights and allow them to negotiate collectively.

"Screen workers lost their right to support each other in negotiations through collective bargaining when the 'Hobbit law' was implemented by the National Government in 2010," said Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway.

The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill of 2010 clarified the difference between contractors and employees in the film industry. The law was aimed at stopping contractors one day claiming to be an employee, and claiming the extra benefits that come with being one.

It followed the court ruling in favour of a contractor who claimed he was effectively an employee, and protests from actors' unions who wanted to be able to negotiate collectively, despite members being independent contractors.

That's what they'll have under the proposed new legislation.

"The Film Industry Working Group unanimously agreed on a model that means screen sector workers can continue as contractors, but will gain the right to negotiate collectively using good faith bargaining and a dispute resolution scheme," said Lees-Galloway.

"These are similar to the protections that employees enjoy, but most of our screen sector workers have missed out on for the last nine years."

But the changes will also ban the sector from taking industrial action, Stuff reports, instead proposing an arbitration system. Lees-Galloway said this was a compromise between giving workers more rights, whilst not diminishing New Zealand's attractiveness as a film production location on the world market.

Labour MP Trevor Mallard protesting National's law changes in 2010.
Labour MP Trevor Mallard protesting National's law changes in 2010. Photo credit: Newshub.

E Tu union assistant secretary John Ryall says it's about time regardless.

"I think it's a bit of a breakthrough in the industry, which has been hampered by the law the [previous] Government passed," he told Newshub.

The changes are expected to become law next year. But they will only apply to "screen production work such as on films, drama serials, commercials and video games", not the wider sector - the Government rejecting the Film Industry Working Group's recommendation it should.

Ryall says it may still open the door for other industries however.

"I think what this will throw up, is it will throw up a spotlight on other areas where independent contractors work... I think it stabilises employment practises in the film and television industry. What the intention is, is to get a standard set of conditions that go right across the industry."



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