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Time For A Paradigm Shift

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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

Recommendations for screen sector workplace relations unveiled

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DEGNZ

Media release

17 October 2018

A recommended model to allow collective bargaining for contractors in the screen sector has today been unveiled by the Government-convened Film Industry Working Group.

The recommendations, which will now be considered by Government, offer a new path forward for the screen sector, following 2010 law changes to workplace relations in the industry.

“This has been an exercise in collaboration and compromise, and we believe it sets the screen sector on a much stronger footing going forward,” says Group Facilitator Linda Clark.

“The screen industry is unlike any other. The nature of filming means producers require certainty of cost and flexibility of conditions in order to complete a production on time and on budget. Project durations are often fixed, and one worker can be involved in multiple productions during a year.

“The working group is proposing a model that reflects the sector’s uniqueness. It retains parts of the current law, but also allows contractors to bargain collectively and it establishes principles that promote strong, productive relationships. To keep up with current trends, it also applies more appropriately to the overall screen sector, rather than film productions alone.”

The recommendations include:

  • keeping the part of the current law that says film workers are only employees if they have a written employment agreement. This provides the certainty of cost and flexibility of conditions needed in the screen industry.
  • allowing contractors to bargain collectively at an occupation level within the screen industry, such as amongst actors or technicians. The process will be supported by principles, set requirements, and a dispute resolution system. Any resulting collective contracts should apply to all contract work in that occupation.
  • establishing principles that govern relationships in the screen industry, including good faith, protection from bullying, discrimination and harassment, reasonable termination of contracts, and fair rates of pay.
  • applying the model to all screen production work, including film and television, to accurately reflect the industry in New Zealand. The screen sector is increasingly fluid for workers and producers, due to changes in technology and viewing habits. Many workers frequently move between the two, and projects increasingly do not fall neatly into either the ‘film’ or ‘television’ productions.

Ms Clark says the recommendations have the full support of all members of the working group.

“As a sector, the group’s members are committed to a vibrant, strong and world-leading screen industry. All of the members valued the opportunity to work together constructively to develop a model that works for the sector.

“We look forward to the Government’s response.”

The working group’s full recommendations are available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website at https://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/employment-skills/legislation-reviews/film-industry-working-group

The Film Industry Working Group was convened by the Government earlier this year. Its members are:

  • Alex Lee, Film Auckland
  • Alice Shearman, New Zealand Writers Guild
  • Augie Davis, Stunt Guild of New Zealand
  • Barrie Osborne, film producer
  • Brendan Keys, Weta Digital
  • Erina Tamepo, Ngā Aho Whakaari
  • Melissa Ansell-Bridges, Equity New Zealand
  • Michael Brook, Regional Film Offices New Zealand
  • Paul Mackay, BusinessNZ
  • Richard Fletcher, Screen Production and Development Association
  • Richard Wagstaff, New Zealand Council of Trade Unions
  • Sioux Macdonald, Screen Industry Guild
  • Tui Ruwhiu, Directors and Editors Guild of New Zealand

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For further information, contact:

Linda Clark
Facilitator, Film Industry Working Group
linda.clark@kensingtonswan.com
027 490 7942

Melissa Ansell-Bridges
Director, Equity New Zealand
melissa.ansell-bridges@actorsequity.org.nz
027 360 1980

Richard Fletcher
Co-President, Screen Production and Development Association
richard@libertinepictures.com
021 655 339