And the Oscar for Union-Smashing and Manipulating Public Opinion goes to…
… Peter Jackson, John Key, and Warner Bros, for their cunning performance over, ‘The Hobbit‘!
In 2010, Jackson, Key, and Warner Bros, created mass public hysteria by suggesting that film production of ‘The Hobbit‘ would be moved overseas, unless labour laws were changed; the union, Actors Equity neutralised; and film subsidies increased. (see: Hobbit tax rebate swells to $67.1m in second year of production).
Only private schools and soon-to-be-set-up Charter Schools enjoy similar taxpayer funded subsidies.
Key duly bent over, changed labour laws (See: Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Act 2010 – Legislative history) and turned actors and film technicians from being employees to “contractors”.
At the stroke of a pen – similar to a Decree issued by a lone despot in some authoritarian regime – National unilaterally changed workers from being employees to sub-contractors. The resulting changes were stark;
- Employees can negotiate collectively for a collective agreement
- Sub-contractors cannot
- Employees had minimum wage; sick pay; holiday pay; appropriate employment/termination protections; etc.
- Sub-contractors do not.
The law was passed in under 48 hours.
It subsequently turned out, according to an email from Jackson to National Minister, Gerry Brownlee, that the threat of moving ‘The Hobbit‘ overseas was non-existent,
Sir Peter Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors’ boycott would force The Hobbit overseas, emails show.
The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on October 18, is in stark contrast to comments the film-maker made earlier in the month.
On October 1, he said: “The Hobbit is being punished with a boycott which is endangering thousands of New Zealand jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of foreign income, for no good reason.”
Sir Peter dismissed the idea that movie production was moving overseas because it was cheaper to make films there.
“It’s completely absurd! Eastern Europe is only being considered because a minority group of the New Zealand acting community have invoked union action that has blacklisted our film, making it impossible to shoot in New Zealand.”
But on October 18, Sir Peter said the boycott had nothing to do with the movies potentially moving overseas.
“There is no connection between the blacklist (and it’s eventual retraction) and the choice of production base for The Hobbit,” he wrote.
“What Warners requires for The Hobbit is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such as way that it feels its $500 million investment is as secure as possible.”
The October 18 email also suggests Sir Peter thought the boycott had been lifted, even though he said in television interviews three days later he was unsure if it had been officially ditched.
Sir Peter declined to comment through a spokesman yesterday.
Actors, as well as film technicians, lost many rights, and Warner Bros got everything they demanded.
Two and half years later, and consequences remained to be played out.
Yesterday (25 February 2013), the Oscar Awards were held in Hollywood.
‘The Hobbit‘ did not fare well,
It might be said that events in New Zealand in 2010 – with the craven capitulation to Hollywood business moguls – did not escape the attention of actors and others in the film-making industry. The corporate-government assault on the rights of film workers has not been forgotten.
What is ironic, though, is that Jackson, Key, and Warner Bros have forgotten that, in Hollywood movies, the ‘little guy’ triumphs in the end.
What was Frodo’s journey all about, Mr Jackson?
Previous related blogposts
Foreign fishing boats, Hobbits, and the National Guvmint (2 March 2012)
Key: When I say ‘no’, I mean ‘no’. Maybe. (4 Oct 2012)
Muppets, Hobbits, and Scab ‘Unions’ (9 Oct 2012)
Peter Jackson’s “Precious” (28 Nov 2012)