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.
Last updated on 30 August 2021