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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