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Film Industry Braced For Employment Law Fallout

Hon Roger Sowry MP
National Party Industrial Relations Spokesman

06 November 2003

Film industry braced for employment law fallout

"Margaret Wilson's decision to ignore warnings about changes to the definition of employee and contractor in 2000 have come back to haunt her," according to National Party Industrial Relations spokesman Roger Sowry.

The Employment Court has handed down a decision on the status of a set model technician from the Lord of the Rings, saying he was an employee even though he was actually employed as a contractor.

"Rather than the parties to the contract deciding what their status is, the Court can now decide for itself what the nature of the relationship is, even where the worker is stated to be a contractor," warns Mr Sowry.

"The decision has far reaching effects for the film industry, where the practice is to hire many specialist workers on film as contractors.

"Some have warned it may cost the New Zealand film industry. It could force other filmmakers to re-think their plans and may even have an impact on the $300 million production of 'The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe'.

"Margaret Wilson and the Government were repeatedly warned of the dangers of introducing this change by Employers and Employment Lawyers in 2000," Mr Sowry says.

"However, Labour chose to ignore their advice. The previous definitions were clear and workable. Now, we have a system where the contract between the company and the worker means nothing - the court decides based on a set of abstract criteria.

"The film industry is a growing business in New Zealand. The Government must ensure it is not damaged by ideological employment law decisions, costing the economy millions in the process.

"A recent American Chamber of Commerce survey stated our excessive Employment regulation was a key part in the perception of New Zealand not being business friendly to American companies. This should serve as a warning to the Government.

"Margaret Wilson must recognise her mistake and must put the law right in her upcoming amendments to the ERA," says Mr Sowry.


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