The Screen Industry Workers Bill
We are just over a week away from the Monday 25 May deadline for public submissions to the select committee.
In order to see pay and working conditions improve for you and others working in the industry, we need every DEGNZ member to have their say on the Screen Industry Workers Bill that Government has introduced to Parliament. It’s vital for us to see this Bill go through as it will allow DEGNZ to collectively bargain for minimum rates and terms and conditions for all directors, editors and assistant editors.
Consider this: in its first reading in the House, 63 MPs voted for the bill, and 57 voted against. Your submission will help MPs understand what it’s like working in the industry and why this law change matters.
The law change would replace the controversial ‘Hobbit Law’, an amendment rushed through Parliament that classified all film workers as ‘independent contractors’, unable to bargain collectively and receive other benefits associated with being an employee.
To help you make your submission, we’ve published information and a submission template on this campaign page.
Some of you may be wondering what we have been up to in the last two to three weeks, so I thought it time to update you all.
Rather than make an effort only under the DEGNZ banner, we quickly decided to join with many of the other guilds, industry organisations and some companies to come together as the Screen Sector COVID-19 Action Group. I joined the Action Group and in the last two weeks I have been a part of meetings with TVNZ, Mediaworks, Maori Television, Sky, NZFC, NZ On Air, the Ministry of Culture and Heritage and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment pushing to get development and production funds flowing out to industry.
I have also participated in multiple internal Action Group meetings. We have set up and are working on a number of workflow groups designed in the short and medium term to help get the sector working again, and to plan for the various scenarios that may eventuate. You can see the work going on here. I, Felicity Letcher of Main Reactor and David Brady who is currently doing work for ATEED are preparing the business case for the Group, so that we can attract desperately needed funding to execute some of the Group’s initiatives.
Rather than flood your Inboxes with messaging from DEGNZ, we have tried to keep our communications to those that are really pertinent and possibly helpful to members, and encourage you as much as possible to go to the COVID-19 Action Group website for highly valuable information: www.screenindustrynz.co.nz
As an affiliate to the Council of Trade Unions (CTU), DEGNZ is under the umbrella of their efforts to protect workers and their rights during this difficult time. I have been participating in multiple CTU meetings where we have been able to have a voice in the efforts the CTU is making with Government to get various types of support including on the wage subsidy, hopefully rent relief and other initiatives.
I am currently working with the other two unions in the screen sector, the New Zealand Writers Guild and Equity New Zealand, preparing for submissions on the Screen Worker Bill now in Select Committee. Thankfully the deadline was pushed from early April to early May because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has given us more time to prepare.
This Bill is the outcome of the work all the screen sector bodies did during the many months of discussion we had in the Film Industry Working Group, which resulted in recommendations to the Government. It’s vitally important for us to see this Bill go through as it will allow us to collectively bargain for minimum rates and terms and conditions for all directors, editors and assistant editors. You will hear from us shortly on this as we will be asking individuals to make submissions as well and have been preparing materials to help you.
Internationally, tomorrow I will have the second of two meetings within the last two weeks with the heads of the American, Canadian, UK, Irish and European Directors Guilds as we all grapple with how to deal with the COVID-19 crisis affecting all our members. This is essentially an information sharing exercise out of which we hope for some concrete initiatives to come. I was also in touch on the weekend with our colleagues in Writers & Directors Worldwide and the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers and Directors for essentially the same purpose.
While the above has been a massive workload across the last two weeks, we have also been moving as much of our professional development online as we can. At the start of the lockdown period, we issued a call for the Emerging Women Filmmakers Incubator for 2020, which will take place over Zoom. We ran a Young Creators session with commercial video production company Chillbox Creative on Facebook Live last week. You can catch-up on the Q&A here. We will complete our Directors Toolkit with Peter Burger online this weekend too, which was interrupted by COVID-19. DEGNZ will continue to put out calls for various other workshops and initiatives over the next three months.
Finally, to help with mental health and wellbeing, we introduced a Membership Holiday for people suffering financial hardship and cannot afford to become members or renew their membership. We launched DEGNZ Play to give members a creative outlet during lockdown and continue to assess what else we can do. We are open to ideas — if you do, get in touch with me directly.
I received a suggestion from a member that prompted us to compile a database of DEGNZ editors who have editing equipment and software that allows them to work from their bubbles. The response has been great so far. The database will be pushed out to the sector as there may well be work opportunities.
We are all facing this difficult time together and united we will more effectively improve the situation for everyone. DEGNZ will continue to focus its efforts on behalf of members through the COVID-19 Action Group as this is the most efficient way for us to achieve outcomes. An example of this is the SPADA online interview with Annabelle Sheehan of NZFC and Cameron Harland of NZ On Air, which put forward many of the Action Group’s discussions.
The kaupapa of DEGNZ – to ensure the creative, cultural and financial wellbeing of our members – remains the same. From time to time, I will share further updates with you on the work we are doing.
Stay safe, be kind, stay at home, break the chain.
For Immediate Release
17 June 2019
The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ welcomes the Government’s initial response to the Film Industry Group (FIWG) recommendations, but feels that the proposed changes should apply to protect a wider group of workers in the screen industry.
“As currently outlined, the narrow application of the changes leaves the majority of directors and editors and many other screen workers out of collective bargaining,” said DEGNZ President Howard Taylor. “Those it applies to are generally already the most well paid with the best terms and conditions.”
“Explotiation of screen workers including directors and editors occurs most frequently in the online, reality and factual screen sectors. Under the proposed carve-out, new and mid-level practitioners will not be protected by any minimum standards, and will continue to suffer from poor working conditions and renumeration”
In a recent survey, Creative New Zealand and New Zealand On Air identified that the median personal annual income for creative professionals is around $35,800 – compared to $51,800 for all New Zealanders earning a wage or salary. When you take away other sources of income, the median income from creative work is only $15,000.
DEGNZ fully supports the two bodies joint strategic initiatives to improve the wellbeing of creative professionals, namely:
- Fair reward – working towards:
- ensuring lower-paid creative professionals are paid in line with technical professionals
- lifting pay to the point where creative professionals start to feel it is a fair reward for their work.
- Sustainability – working to make the careers of mid-career and established creative professionals more sustainable through more continuous creative endeavours.
- Emerging creative professionals – working with the sector (including peak bodies and guilds) to find better ways to support creative professionals at the start of their career.
“We welcome the opportunity to work with Government during drafting of the legislation to expand the coverage of the changes” Taylor added. “Bringing as many screen workers as possible into collective bargaining would help to build a sustainable and vibrant creative sector in New Zealand.”
For more information contact:
Directors & Editors Guild of NZ
+64 21 659 950
The Directors & Editors Guild of NZ is a not-for-profit membership organisation that represents Directors and Editors in the New Zealand screen industry. This includes Directors and Editors of feature drama and documentary; television drama, documentary and factual programmes; short films; video art; animation; commercials and web content.
DEGNZ’s two primary roles are advocacy and professional development. We:
- are dedicated to promoting excellence in the arts of directing and editing.
- foster collegiality and unity within the screen industry.
- promote members’ creative and economic rights.
- work to improve industry working conditions and remuneration.
- offer professional advice and information on contracts and industry standards and practice.
- offer professional development events, networking opportunities, career advice, dispute resolution, mentoring, workshops, training, discounts and regular news bulletins for members across all levels of expertise, from novices to seasoned professionals.
DEGNZ is a voice for Directors and Editors in influencing policy in the interest of our members. We do this through our membership of the pan-industry group SINZ (Screen Industry New Zealand), and by making submissions to government and public officials.
Internationally, we work co-operatively with other guilds and we belong to the International Affiliation of English-Speaking Directors’ Organisations (IEASDO), and the Alliance of Asia-Pacific Audiovisual Writers And Directors (AAPA).
DEGNZ is Auckland-based with an office in Grey Lynn.
Directors & Editors Guild of NZ
Level 2, 66 Surrey Crescent
P.O. Box 47-294, Ponsonby
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?