December 2010 -- News Release
Selling out Kiwi work rights for Warner Bros a “disgrace”, EPMU
New Zealanders ought to be deeply concerned at the government’s willingness to change our labour laws at the behest of US entertainment corporation Warner Bros earlier this year, says the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU).
Documents released under the Official Information Act to Radio New Zealand show the government was prepared to change the law on the status of employment agreements in the film industry in the face of a threat to send the making of “The Hobbit” movie offshore. The papers also reveal that the threat of a boycott by actors, which by the time Warner Bros executives arrived in New Zealand had been called off, was not an issue but that a 2005 Supreme Court decision and decades old law was.
“It is simply staggering that a New Zealand government should accede to a rushed law change that deprives workers of a right they’ve had for decades just because an overseas mega-corporate and a local film director ask for it,” says EPMU national secretary Andrew Little.
“The government’s job is to act in the best interests of all New Zealanders, not the mighty and the powerful, and certainly not for overseas mega-corporates.”
In his email Peter Jackson said, “What Warners requires for ‘The Hobbit’ is the certainty of a stable employment environment and the ability to conduct its business in such a way that it feels that its $500 million investment is as secure as possible. Unfortunately Warners have become very concerned at the grey areas in our employment laws. The situation hasn’t been helped by the fact that they spent a lot of money fighting the Bryson case – unsuccessfully – in the New Zealand courts.”
"Changing New Zealand's labour laws at the behest of an overseas corporation and one of the most powerful men in New Zealand is a disgrace.”
“By doing so the government legislated to remove the right of the courts to look behind the form of an employment agreement in order to check the true nature of the agreement, which is something that has been crucial to a fair balance in employment law around the world for many, many decades.”
"The right of the courts to look at substance over form is fundamental in commercial and tax law so why should it not apply to people who sell their skills, talent and time in the New Zealand film industry?”
"The documents released to Radio New Zealand show that the National government’s actions were a total sell-out of New Zealand law making and legal principle, and make New Zealand the laughing stock of the developed world.”
The EPMU represents around 45,000 members across eleven industry sectors and takes an active interest in employment law.