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Govt to introduce new film worker law next year

By Paul McBeth

June 13 (BusinessDesk) - The government expects to have a new legislative framework in place next year to let film workers negotiate collectively but it won't include all screen work.

Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Iain Lees-Galloway today announced the government's intention to introduce a new employment model for screen workers, who are typically contractors. He tasked a working group of industry and union representatives to come up with ideas on how to deal with the power imbalance and has been considering its recommendations since October.

The working group said incremental steps were important to ensuring any collective bargaining framework was durable, and that deals be done at a sub-industry level covering terms and conditions.

The film sector's use of contractors has been a focal point for industrial law since a 2005 Supreme Court ruling against Peter Jackson's Three Foot Six unit. The judges ruled that a model maker for Weta Workshops employed as an independent contractor was effectively an employee. The previous administration rewrote the law in 2010 after Hollywood studio Warner Bros threatened to pull filming of The Hobbit movie out of New Zealand.

"This model will deliver workplace rights to more workers than a straight repeal of the ‘Hobbit law’ would have," Lees-Galloway said in a statement. "Instead, we are ensuring more workers gain workplace protections while providing certainty and flexibility for our internationally-competitive screen sector."

The government will draft legislation and introduce it to parliament later this year, with a view to passing the new law in the mid-2020.

Lees-Galloway rejected a recommendation for the law to be expanded to include all screen production, saying that would be a wide expansion of scope.

"The model will apply to screen production work such as on films, drama serials, commercials and video games. Its exact coverage will be determined during drafting in consultation with the industry," he said.

An accompanying fact sheet to the statement said the framework is expected to allow exemptions or variations to collective agreements in some instances, and that individual contracts will still be allowed, provided they meet the minimum terms of a collective deal.


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