Monday, October 4, 2010

The actors are revolting!

On our relatively new show Court Report this week, we cover a story that's very close to our hearts... the disagreement over The Hobbit movie.

Industrial disputes are usually the domain of teachers, hospital workers and bus drivers but now employment relations have taken a dramatic turn.

A confusing row between NZ actors and the producers of The Hobbit has developed over pay and conditions. Confusing, because in New Zealand actors are an entirely different category of worker compared to most people.

The NZ actors want to bargain collectively with producer/director Peter Jackson for the same kind of union negotiated contracts their overseas counterparts receive.

But in NZ, actors are independent contractors so the usual employment laws don’t apply to them. As independent contractors they’re viewed as one-person businesses... in which case the Commerce Act prevents them from bargaining collectively because that amounts to price-fixing. 

Both sides have sought legal advice… even the Crown has weighed in with its own legal advice… and still the dispute seems to be at a stalemate. No good thing when billions of dollars are at stake, and the future of our film industry in the balance.

After a week of back and forth statements, The Court Report brings two sides together in one room… Peter Jackson’s lawyer, Peter Couchman joins entertainment lawyer Tim Riley who’s previously represented both actors and the Australian union MEAA.

How far apart are the two sides and can the gap be bridged?

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