Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Anatomy of a Shambles

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  • nzlemming,

    I can understand people telling me that NZAE and MEAA are the same (now) but what is the motive to keep the NZAE name to the fore?? Making them look like goodguys for us looney NZers? Making it look like it is a NZ operation?

    You ask "what is the motive to keep the NZAE name to the fore?" In my opinion, it's the opposite of your first suggestion - to make them look like the good guys - and it's there so that the MEAA can point and say "it's not us that's screwing up your industry! See, it's your own people!"

    It's not unusual for a society or company to have one legal name and a different trading name, especially if you are trying to evoke historical context. Actor's Equity goes back many decades in NZ. It was never big or powerful. Given the people MEAA was selling themselves to (e.g. Kate Harcourt, Donagh Rees et al) it's likely they reasoned that the AE brand would be more attractive than simply joining an Aussie union called the MEAA. They probably thought it would resonate better with employers and ordinary NZers, and evoke the original UK Equity as well as the US Equity (SAG is not the only union in the US involved).

    ObPhantom - For Those Who Came In Late:
    MEAA came to NZ in 2006 and suggested to some actors (see my earlier post that resurrecting Actors Equity would be a good thing. Since the passage of the ECA and the later ERA which replaced it, Equity was unable to reach the minimum numbers to register as a union.

    The MEAA sold a bill of goods including resources and reciprocity across the ditch and a bunch of people bought into it. Far more considered and rejected it, being quite happy to operate without union coverage.

    I was one of those, though I don't do a lot of acting any more. One of the refounders (a very old friend) spent a long evening and some extended emails trying to convince me to join up, but I could see exactly this sort of scenario unwinding. I could never see how it was in the MEAA's interest to promote strong unionism in New Zealand (bugger international solidarity - it doesn't go as far as helping prevent your members from working overseas) but I could see how useful it would be to be able to shove a spanner in the NZ industry if you were trying to boost your own. (See SAG Global Rule One)

    The actors involved signed up to register an incorporated society as the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (New Zealand) Incorporated in 2007 and have been operating as "an autonomous part of the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance" since that point. Because of "an administrative oversight" they managed to let their registration lapse and recently had to re-register the society under the same name with a new constitution, which they did last week.

    As far as the blacklist was concerned, it was requested by Simon Whipp of the sibling organisations in FIA and they obliged. The NZ branch did not formally request the blacklist (to keep their hands clean is my guess) but I become less convinced daily that the committee at least was not aware it was going to happen. Initially, I thought the incoherence of their response was due to them being caught by surprise by the request. Now I think they were just caught by surprise by Jackson's response to the blacklist. I think they probably thought it was all going to occur behind closed doors and were unprepared for public exposure.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Nathan Price,

    In regard to the Simpson Grierson opinion
    I think they are probably referring to this part of the act
    [http://www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/1986/0005/latest/DLM88273.html]

    Commerce Act 1986 No 5 (as at 01 April 2009), Public Act
    Part 2 Restrictive trade practices
    32 Certain recommendations as to prices for goods and services exempt from application of section 30
    Nothing in section 30 of this Act applies to a provision of a contract, arrangement, or understanding, to the extent that the provision recommends or provides for the recommending of the price for, or a discount, allowance, rebate or credit in relation to goods or services where the parties to the contract, or arrangement, or understanding include not less than 50 persons (bodies corporate that are interconnected being counted as a single person) who supply or acquire, in trade, goods or services to which the provision applies.
    Compare: Trade Practices Act 1974 (Aust), s 45A(3)

    Kensington Swan say this about it:

    There is an exception under s 32 for price recommendations where the parties to the arrangement include not less than 50 persons. This exception was intended more for trade associations but could also be of relevance to large franchise groups. However, it would be important that the recommendation be a genuine recommendation and that there be no requirement or pressure to follow the recommended price. (Section 32 exempts certain recommendations as to prices for goods and services from application of s 30. The equivalent section in the Trade Practices Act, s 45A(3), was repealed in 1995.)

    http://www.kensingtonswan.com/Publications/Competition%20&%20Consumer/Franchises_and_competition_law.pdf

    Auckland, NZ • Since Oct 2010 • 1 posts Report Reply

  • Jaymax,

    So, I've just been through the lengthy debate at:
    http://www.theatreview.org.nz/forum/topic.php?id=899 (Hat tip to Sacha)

    I pulled out some points as I came across them that don't seem to have been covered here. Apologies if I missed something already dealt with. Summarising, so including names and timestamps so you can find the post there if interested. All statements are per the posts, not mine.

    ----

    Wellington meeting: The motion (from the floor) was not to include non-AE members, but to exclude them. Voted down by AE members.
    4 Oct 2010, 06:04 PM - John Smythe

    ----

    Numbers: ~450 in Auckland; ~40 in Wellington. 598 AE members at the time; more since.
    4 Oct 2010, 06:30 PM - Pete Coates (also 4 Oct 2010, 06:30 PM)

    ----

    Wellington meeting, from attendee: Wlgn actors' agents not informed, short notice. Actor reading PJ statement 'slammed down by union members before he could finish'. Motion to exclude non-union members came only as non-union members voted to oppose resolution; non-union actors felt uncomfortable.
    5 Oct 2010, 04:14 PM - Zelda Edwards

    ----

    Miller movie (Justice League Mortal): Prior run-in between WB and MEAA. "It feels to me like I'm not fighting for this film. I'm fighting for the Australian film industry. " - Miller
    ... an American story that will be performed in American accents. "For the public, both in Australia and outside of Australia, it will be seen as an American film," Simon Whipp

    http://www.smh.com.au/news/film/mega-miller-movie-refused-rebate/2008/03/18/1205602383792.html

    ----

    Finally, a thought (mine) that developed during the debate over the Weta contractor/employee discussion. There is a firm distinction between someone engaged with an uncertain, but definite end-date, after the engagement objective is achieved -vs- no definite end-date, and new objectives coming down the line. Haven't read up on the case, so not sure how relevant. But clearly there is something about a 'contractor' who is engaged because of who they are is an intrinsic part of their 'product', that makes them special compared to a 'contractor' who is engaged for their skill, or even artistry, at producing the 'product' they are engaged to produce.

    The law needs to acknowledge this.

    ----

    Finally finally - Russell, I listened to your radio segment on the panel - I would urge you to get the story re AE and MEAA integration from someone who wasn't an actors' agent. No disrespect to RB (not you, the one you referenced) but as I understand it, there's a very important other side to that story.

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Sacha, that is an enlightening account from Helen. I remember her on Q and A a few weeks ago refusing to comment on what we now know was considerable progress made in resolving the issue, as the parties had agreed not to. Unfortunately, that integrity led to a major backlash against her/the CTU/ and unions in general over the following weeks.

    The intial post also explains why there have been such conflicting messages coming out from the Beehive.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Shand,

    @Jaymax you may not know that there are 3 separate threads from RB on public address covering the various stages/acts of this debacle to date. Please do not feel the need to read all of the combined discussions. You prove by the exerts you posted that you to have a good handle on a confusing and highly volatile situation.

    I hope I am not alone in saying that I have no interest in learning anything more about Simon Whipp. He signed his name to a member alert, went on holiday, chose not to talk to NZ media and chose not to speak with upset techies worried for their livelihoods. May he now stay out of the NZ scene as he is not someone I would respectfully like to meet in a dark alleyway.

    I am interested in learning about damage control and the rational conciliatory steps good peeps are taking to help rescue the Hobbit, the industry and many 'hard yakka' dream jobs for New Zealand. Loyalty at its finest.

    auck • Since Aug 2008 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Jaymax,

    @Nick - Ta. I did not know. (Also guessing not the only one here who didn't)

    Auckland • Since Oct 2010 • 25 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    The intial post also explains why there have been such conflicting messages coming out from the Beehive.

    Wow, really nice of IrishBill to acknowledge in passing that Richard Taylor wasn't a lying douche-nozzle whipping up the mob with deliberate lies? Do hope that Kelly will exert herself to do the same.

    Still, I can't help but still be bemused that apparently the magic bullet is for the evil Tories to fork over even bigger tax breaks to their corporate buddies. I thought we'd put that spin to bed?

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12370 posts Report Reply

  • Blake Monkley,

    DexterX

    Here are the EPMU union rules regarding your point of view. I know my union applies a very inclusive process to the membership, to suggest otherwise would be nonsense.

    Auckland • Since Jul 2008 • 215 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    The Hobbit rally needs support.

    Interesting that on Labour Day the CTU's role in this mess is likely to show how underhand and out of touch they have become.

    A CTU campaign for fairness at work on the 20th October 2010 has not registered anywhere in the media.

    The CTU message was - Support the campaign and give this government a clear message that we will not tolerate any attacks on workers' rights.

    I wonder if those rights include the right to work and the right to be consulted - that is perhaps the mesasge that the CTU & NZAE - MEAA needs to be given.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • Heather W.,

    A CTU campaign for fairness at work on the 20th October 2010 has not registered anywhere in the media.

    Disagree with that opinion DexterX.

    The rally at TelstraClear Events Centre was on the TV news that night http://www.3news.co.nz/Employment-protest-Live-updates/tabid/423/articleID/182209/Default.aspx and was on page 2 of the Thursday edition of NZ Herald. (Front page was about mortgages).

    Estimates by the unions were that in total about 22,000 people gathered in various places around the country.

    The Hobbit story took over as the "union issue".

    North Shore • Since Nov 2008 • 189 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    A CTU campaign for fairness at work on the 20th October 2010 has not registered anywhere in the media.

    Except for widespread TV, radio and press coverage, the existence of which it would have taken you 0.1 seconds to discover, courtesy of the same machine you used to say there wasn't any.

    Then again, the Hobbit story has not registered anywhere in the media, because I'm fixated on the Wayne Rooney stay/go/stay story, and have chosen to ignore everything else. My world = everyone else's world, fingers in the ears, yeah, that works for me too.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Simon g - The fairness at work campaign was to cumulate on 20th Oct 2010 with the rally at the Vector arena and seek to gain widespread media coverage on the heels of the Labour party Conference and be the issue for Labour Day.

    If you google 'Fairness at Work" most of the entries relate to the activity around August 2010 and there is little of the 20 Oct 2010 rally – it isn’t really covered – The Hobbit debacle has taken the wind out of its sales IMHO.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • simon g,

    The 20 Oct rally was the lead story on One News, at 6 pm.

    Saying that the Hobbit has had more coverage would have been sensible, and true. But what you actually said was very silly and demonstrably false.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1332 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Shand,

    wow cool promotional mash up .... creative peeps and geeks have been mobilised.

    Promises to be a good time and smiling people will remember how and why solidarity can be good while politely voicing opposition to the bad. This is becoming exciting to watch. The bad may even show up. All be it, in small numbers of angry raving trolls waving placards and shouting treason through tired megaphones like a sad kiwiana version of the West Borough Baptist Church.

    Now all we extras in this grandstand need IS.... an appropriate name to encapsulate this new form of industrial reaction.

    - rationale flash mob democracy
    - the unlikely to riot squad
    - damage control democracy
    - the democratic movement of mindful extras

    auck • Since Aug 2008 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • DexterX,

    Blake Monkley - The situation one where the union executive go outside the rules and pursue their own agenda and call for industrial action (the blacklist) with out a resolution from the membership.

    Employment relationships are a trinity – Union to Employer – Employer to Employee – Union to Employee.

    The union executive should at law not be able to call for or initiate industrial action without a resolution from the floor. It is not the decision of the union executive to make. That is my point.

    The EPMU are very thorough yes I agree – they operate one would say in a manner where they do the right thing the right way.

    I feel that when a union executive initiates industrial action without a valid resolution, that person should face a penalty, a ban from holding office and also be excluded from taking part in the negotiations.

    There should also be support for union members to take such an action against the union – The ERA or Employment Court should be able to on application appoint an advocate to take the case on behalf of the member(s). Hwere the case is provden the union official shoudl meet all the costs involved.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1224 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Shand,

    in small numbers of angry raving trolls waving placards and shouting treason

    I think I shall make a big sign saying "Don't feed the trolls"

    auck • Since Aug 2008 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Points to anyone who takes along another of those "Carly Binding Referendum" signs.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Dexter, we heard you the first time, and the second, and the third. Please find a new angle.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Simon Whipp interviewed, gives some examples of concerns.

    Whipp said the campaign The Hobbit had been caught up in was part of a bigger effort to give those actors the same rights as those in Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada.

    "For most people who sign a contract it's as binding for one party as the other... for New Zealand film and TV contracts that hasn't been the case."

    Whipp said that if a Kiwi performer wanted to quit a production, producers could bring legal proceedings to stop them – and sue for damages.

    "But if the producer changed their mind about a production, all they're obliged to do is give a day's notice ... that's standard in New Zealand."

    He cited a theatre company contract stating that an actor unable to work would be financially liable for their replacement.

    "Not only do they not get paid if they are sick, but they have to pay for their replacement. That's not fair, and it shouldn't be part of anyone's contract."

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    He cited a theatre company contract ...

    What is this 'theatre' of which he speaks? How does that have anything to do with the local or international film business?

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    They're a performers union in general, aren't they?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    But just as Peter Jackson can't negotiate for the whole NZ film industry, how the hell can he negotiate for how theatre hires actors?

    Simon Whipp -- or Equity -- have yet to explain why The Hobbit alone was targeted with an incredibly punitive action, when what they seek is (something about) generally raising the standards of the engagement of actors in the NZ screen industry (having conceded that PJ's hiring practises are fine). Talking about other general ways in which actors have it rough are irrelevant to this action.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Despite the earlier attempts with the local TV productions mentioned, one of the union's fundamental decisions in this campaign seems to have been seeking broader change by leveraging this one production. It would be interesting to hear from those involved locally where that decision came from, if not Mr Whipp.

    It does seem to have got them around a table with SPADA and under the wing of the CTU but the cost seems pretty high.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    It does seem to have got them around a table with SPADA and under the wing of the CTU but the cost seems pretty high.

    Especially since SPADA invited them to the table almost two years ago.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Am I right in reading that Commerce Act stuff above as being solely about price? Where do conditions fit in?

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

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