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Is it Time to be a Union?

In 2000, the Guild, which is an incorporated society, discussed whether or not to become a craft union when the Labour Government passed the Employment Relations Act making collective bargaining possible. However, because the majority of Guild members continued to see themselves as freelance operators, there was never unified support for unionisation.

The Hobbit Law introduced in 2010 categorised all film workers as contractors, further preventing film workers from collective bargaining as contractors are unable to access collective bargaining mechanisms currently.

In the independently run DEGNZ membership survey of 2016, nearly 83 percent of the membership said that they would be interested in DEGNZ negotiating collective agreements with minimum rates and conditions on their behalf.

Earlier this year, Minister of Workplace Relations and Employment Iain Lees-Galloway gave The Film Industry Working Group (FIWG), which DEGNZ is participating in, the objective of making recommendations to the Government on changes to the regulatory framework for film industry workers to restore the rights of film production workers to collectively bargain in a way that:

  • Allows film production workers who wish to continue working as individual contractors to do so;
  • Provides certainty to encourage continued film investment in New Zealand by film production companies; and
  • Maintains competition between businesses offering film production services to promote a vibrant, strong and world-leading industry.

Now in 2018, we see the nurses engaged in collective negotiations, former prime minister Jim Bolger appointed to head the Fair Pay working group, and the FIWG some months into the task that Lees-Galloway set it.

Labour relations are coming full circle as is clearly obvious just from the newspaper headlines.

Unionisation has been on the DEGNZ board’s mind for more than the last two years, primarily because of deteriorating terms and conditions and rates of pay for directors and editors, even though many of our members are still contractors.

Do we need to unionise? Not necessarily. We are a craft guild and the representative body for working directors and editors in New Zealand. As long as we are endorsed as such by our membership and officially recognised by industry and government in our role, we are well positioned to continue to advocate, lobby and represent those who chose us to do so.

Internationally, the Directors Guild of America has long been a union. In Australia, the Australian Directors Guild became a union in 2014. Directors UK is both a collection society and a non-profit organisation like us that represents directors’ interests there. The Screen Directors Guild of Ireland is also not a union. What are the pluses and minuses you ask? So far we haven’t discovered anything that massively swings the pendulum either way. But we would like to hear your opinions. Does DEGNZ need to be a union to represent you?

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director