Posts

View from the Top banner

DEGNZ President Howard Taylor signs off.

I am retiring from my role as president of the DEGNZ. Going, but not quite gone. As required by the constitution, I will be continuing as a board member for another year to ensure a smooth transition.

I regard being on the Board of the Guild an honour and a privilege. It is also a lot of work – as my fellow board members will attest. However, I believe that giving back in this way to the industry that has given me such a wonderful career is the least we can do.

I have been on the Board since we set the Guild up 25 years ago and I have been president for five years. I turned the role down twice because I felt, rightly or wrongly, that while I had spent a lifetime in the world of television, I was not familiar enough with the film world. That changed when, having written a feature film screenplay, I took part in a year-long course in international co-production of features. The new-found knowledge gave me the confidence to finally say yes to the role of president.

I am a great believer in Guilds and the role they play in the industry. The lobbying we do on our members behalf is very often unseen. There is a tendency for government and industry bodies like the NZFC to listen to producers and either forget the creatives or assume that producers speak for everyone. The voice of the director (and editor) in the debates that arise is vital.

While it would be wonderful for us all to have the freedom implied by the fact that film is an artform, we are constrained by the pressures of the commercial world. Those pressures impact us directly as an erosion of conditions and fees. The Guild has a key role in protecting what we currently have and promoting improvements. This will be tested when we put on our Union hat and go into negotiation with SPADA to negotiate minimum rates and conditions as set out in the new Screen Industry Worker legislation.

The Guild’s role in providing education and skills training to members is important in an industry where most training is for beginners.

Directors live in silos. It’s many years since I was on another director’s set. Watching other directors work is a valuable learning experience and it’s great the DEGNZ can give directors (and editors) that opportunity.

What I value most is the sense of fraternity that Guild membership brings. We look after each other. Yes, we are competitors for jobs, but in my experience the willingness of directors and editors to lend a hand to their fellows trumps any sense of competition. Guild membership gives me a sense of connectedness to the screen industry that I have never found anywhere else.

The Guild has evolved hugely over the years, becoming a sophisticated organisation dealing with a plethora of active issues. I am proud of what the Guild has achieved and look forward to its robust and noisy future. Kia kaha.

Howard Taylor
(Ex.) President

View from the Top banner

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

View from the Top banner

The Screen Industry Workers Bill is back on the menu with the Government now wanting to to move it along. And that’s a good thing.

If there’s one issue that crops up more than any other at DEGNZ it’s individual contracts.

New Zealand moved away from collective bargaining with the changes to employment legislation that eroded a worker’s right to pre-agreed terms and conditions from the 70’s through to the 2000’s. Individual workers are left to negotiate their own remuneration and terms and conditions with the engagers (companies) if they become classed as contractors, which applies to a very high percentage of screen industry workers. This has been particularly bad for directors and editors, unless you are an in-demand person.

There are now generations of workers who have never had union representation, or benefitted from collectively negotiated agreements.

You, the individual director or editor, are required to negotiate your remuneration and the terms and conditions under which you work with the production company or broadcaster that has the resources in most cases to either engage a lawyer or have their own in-house legal counsel. This creates a playing field that’s ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous. Many of you sign the contracts you are given with little or no negotiating power, and it’s these contracts we often see when people become unhappy with how they are treated.

The Screen Industry Worker Bill is one approach, agreed to by all unions and associations in the screen industry, to provide minimum protection to screen workers. It should prevent outright exploitation and offer the opportunity to get fair terms and conditions in a collective manner. There will still be the opportunity to negotiate individually as there is now. There will be a floor below which no engager can go, but no ceiling except that beyond which the individual engager will not go. In other words, you can push up, but they can’t push down below the minimums.

At DEGNZ we have worked hard with all the other screen guilds and associations to get the Screen Industry Worker Bill in place. The three unions in the screen industry—us, the Writers Guild and Equity NZ, the actors guild—are working with the Council of Trade Unions to try and get the best legislation for screen workers we can. But the battle is still not won.

New legislation is tricky to get through Government. It gets changed, watered down, and other things get in the way, like the Fair Pay Agreements that Government and other non-screen industry unions are hot on at the moment.

While we continue to work on getting the Screen Industry Workers Bill passed, I’d like to ask each and every one of you to familiarise yourself with the Bill, because it’s for you. You can read the current draft here, which we are seeking improvements to. You can learn about the legislative process here. And most importantly, you can talk to others about it, because once it is in place and we negotiate a collective agreement, each one of you will have an opportunity to vote on whether you want the minimums we bring to you. And if you don’t, your vote can tell us to go back and try again as long as you are a member with rights to vote.

That’s democracy in action in a union.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

DEGNZ

On June 24th, Executive Director Tui Ruwhiu made an oral submission to the Select Committee in support of DEGNZ’s written submission on the Screen Industry Workers Bill. If you would like to watch the live Facebook recording, you can view it here. DEGNZ’s oral submission plays from 28:54 to 40:15.

 

Screen Industry Workers Bill

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.

Hobbit Law Cartoon