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Yesterday I was sitting all day on line in the National Affiliates Conference of the Council of Trade Unions.

There were three of us from the screen industry. Teachers, nurses, forestry workers, maritime workers, supermarket workers and everybody else who makes up the New Zealand workforce were also represented.

Every time I join these union discussions it brings home the fact that the screen industry is so entirely different from many others.

We are made up almost exclusively of contractors not employees. We are not protected by the Employment Relations Act. We don’t have collective bargaining. We go predominantly from short-term job to short-term job. We don’t get holiday pay. We can end up working below the minimum wage. These are just some of the differences.

But many of us are very fortunate in comparison to large numbers of employees in other sectors. Most of us love the work we do. We are engaged in a creative industry where self-expression is encouraged. A good number of people in our industry are well-paid at levels above the living wage.

Yes, not everything is great about our work situations and things could be better. That’s where the Screen Industry Workers Bill comes in. If we can get it across the line, and it looks like we will, then all of the guilds will be able to set minimum terms and conditions in negotiations with engagers (producers/production companies), both at an occupation level—for directors, editors, gaffers, grips, VFX supervisors, etc.—and hopefully at an enterprise level (individual productions). It will be a game changer.

The Government is also seeking a game changer for other industries through the Fair Pay Agreements, which they are working on now.

Fair Pay Agreements are kind of the Screen Industry Workers Bill for everybody else. You can read more about them here.

While it might seem like workers in other sectors have good representation and are able to collectively negotiate minimums and terms and conditions, that’s not the case. The Fair Pay Agreements system is designed to address that, introducing a means for sector wide collective agreements.

The Screen Industry Workers Bill, if it goes through, will be the first legislation in New Zealand to allow collective bargaining for contractors, which at this point is illegal, as it is seen as collusion and price fixing under New Zealand’s Commerce Act. The Commerce Act will be changed to allow collective bargaining for contractors to occur. Other contractors like Uber drivers and courier drivers are watching us with interest. It may be that the FPAs make allowance for contractors—still being discussed.

Ourselves, the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand have just finished a series of workshops around the country, thanks to the financial support of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE). We covered off on the Screen Industry Workers Bill amongst other topics. We were pleased with the turnout, but there are still so many screen industry workers who need to understand the significant impact the Bill will have on them, and how important it is for them to participate in the democratic process that will occur as we go through negotiations.

Please help us spread the word about this important work by reading about the Screen Industry Worker Bill yourself if you haven’t already, and passing on the information in the links following:

  • First reading of the draft legislation in Parliament –videos of political party responses HERE
  • Written Submissions to the Education & Workforce Select Committee close –all written submission HERE
  • NZWG Written Submission to the Select Committee HERE
  • DEGNZ Written Submission to the Select Committee HERE
  • Equity Written Submission to select Committee HERE
  • Oral Submissions presented to the Education & Workforce Select Committee HERE
  • Select Committee report to Parliament HERE
  • You can read the Screen Industry Workers Bill in full HERE
  • Keep updated on the progress of the Bill HERE

Everybody has a part to play in helping New Zealand’s screen industry grow up and become a professional sector that encourages fair treatment, terms and conditions for all its workers.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

COVID-19 and Your Work Rights

Source: CTU, 29 March 2020

The Council of Trade Unions has today launched an online tool for working Kiwis to identify employers who aren’t doing the right thing during the COVID-19 period.

CTU President Richard Wagstaff is concerned that some employers are not following the law; “We continue to hear really concerning reports of unacceptable behaviour by some employers. I do want to stress that the majority of employers are doing the right thing, they are looking after their employees and following the clear guidance from the government. But unfortunately this is not universally the case.”

“We want to ensure that people are able to tell their stories and log what is happening for them. Due to the number and complexity of problems that a significant number of working people are experiencing, we need to create a register so that these cases can be triaged and addressed.”

“Where we identify there are systematic breaches of employment law will we be raising these with government.”

“Employment law still needs to be adhered to – employers who breach the law need to be held to account.”

There are 6 main areas we are seeing poor behaviour from employers

  1. Dismissals/redundancies
  2. Annual leave/sick leave use
  3. Use of the “wage subsidy”
  4. Changing terms and conditions of employment
  5. Treatment of casual and other precarious working people
  6. Health and safety/essential services

“We strongly encourage anyone who has not been treated fairly to ensure that they log it with us. Together, we will identify whether there are specific employers and industries which need to be urgently communicated with,” Wagstaff said.

Click here for a full-length HD interview with CTU Secretary Melissa Ansell-Bridges as she explains the initiative and why it’s needed.

ENDS

For more information contact:

Richard Wagstaff, CTU President – 027 277 8131

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At the Annual General Meeting on 6 October, the Guild and its membership voted on two remits from President Howard Taylor for DEGNZ to unionise and to affiliate with the Council of Trade Unions (CTU).

The motions passed and DEGNZ will unionise and affiliate with the CTU.

Essentially nothing will change.

We will still be the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ, but we will be constituted as a union and no longer as an incorporated society.

This brings us into line with our guild colleagues in Australia, Canada and the U.S., all of who are unions.

When DEGNZ was formed in Wellington in 1996 as the Screen Directors Guild of New Zealand, it was felt that directors weren’t well represented and needed a body that could best speak to their particular needs. Later of course, editors felt the same way and asked to join with us.

Our desire then as now is still the same: to ensure the creative, cultural and financial well-being of New Zealand directors and editors.

Well-known producer John Barnett in a Showtools interview not so long ago pooh-poohed the idea of DEGNZ becoming a union, saying that we’re in a talent-based business and he knows a few directors with vineyards and editors working fulltime, so a union’s no answer for anyone, not even those who don’t have an excess in talent. This was rather disingenuous of John because unions aren’t just about ensuring the wellbeing of the most talented. Rather, it’s the everyday working directors and editors who most need to have their welfares safeguarded and who are often most exploited, particularly those in the first few years of their careers. John mooted the idea of directors and editors using agents, but agents are talent-based and don’t take on everyone who comes through their doors. It is also the Directors Guild of America, a union, that has ensured a number of those vineyard-owning directors are well compensated, have pension plans and healthcare, and could afford to buy those vineyards.

Unions in New Zealand don’t have the power they once had and possibly nor should they. However, their roles are to represent their memberships to the best of their abilities. DEGNZ has been doing this for directors and now editors since its inception. It will continue to do so as a union.

On Wednesday Minister of Workplace Relations and Safety Iain Lees-Galloway announced the recommendations from the Film Industry Working Group of which DEGNZ was a part. These recommendations may well lead to the Guild taking on the role of a negotiator in collective bargaining.

In our 2017 survey of directors and editors, which was independently conducted by Trace Research, at least 84% of respondents were interested in DEGNZ negotiating collective agreements with minimum rates and conditions. As a union, we will be better positioned to do so effectively with CTU support than if we had to shoulder the responsibility on our own.

The long and the short of it is: nothing much has changed and yet, everything has. As a union, DEGNZ will be well able to continue its role of representing the best interests of New Zealand directors and editors.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director