SPADA on Hobbit Battle
The Hobbit and MEAA/Equity Action
The action that MEAA/Equity is taking against The Hobbit is of major concern to the New Zealand film industry and potentially very damaging to New Zealand's international reputation.
Here are the facts:
* MEAA is a registered Australian union. MEAA/Equity has no legal status in New Zealand as it was struck off the Register of Incorporated Societies on 16 September for failing to meet its statutory and legal requirements to file annual returns. MEAA is therefore unable to enter into any agreement in New Zealand and cannot be registered as a New Zealand trade union.
* It is not legal, under NZ law, for a production company to enter into collective bargaining with MEAA/Equity or any other labour organisation regarding performers who are independent contractors.
* The demands MEAA/Equity are making on The Hobbit are therefore not lawful and they are demands that they themselves cannot deliver on.
* MEAA/Equity has approached the production is at its most vulnerable: when the budget has already been set and the film is in pre-production, by contacting international unions to rally around their demands by asking members to boycott working on The Hobbit.
* It is incorrect to say that New Zealand has no accepted guidelines for engagement of actors. The Pink Book, to which NZ Actors' Equity is a party, has operated successfully for more than 15 years and specifies standard terms and conditions. SPADA offered to renegotiate the Pink Book with NZ Actors' Equity eighteen months ago but that offer was rebuffed and instead they insisted on negotiation of an unlawful collective union agreement.
* The New Zealand screen production sector is already under pressure in relation to attracting international productions because of the exchange rate and increased competition from offshore incentives. However, New Zealand has been able to maintain its competitiveness due to its reputation for high quality, film friendliness and flexibility.
This action, and the international publicity it has attracted, is harmful to New Zealand's reputation in the international film community. Commonsense must prevail in this matter; otherwise the long term damage to the New Zealand screen production sector and wider economy will be profound.