Hobbit hysteria bill

October 28, 2010

Today the government is rushing through a law change designed to stymie film workers’ attempts to bargain collectively.

Under the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill  workers employed in film production work will by default be ‘independent contractors’ rather than employees. This will prevent them bargaining collectively as prescribed under the ERA. It also means they can’t legally take strike action as that is outlawed under the ERA except when bargaining for a collective agreement. Film workers will be deemed to be contractors running their own businesses. Read the rest of this entry »

Great article on the Hobbit dispute

October 28, 2010

Herald columnist Brian Rudman’s article on the Hobbit dispute is one of the best written on the subject.

He manages to capture every aspect of this dispute - the anti-union stuff, the spoilt brat Jackson, the toadying and grovelling part of the NZ national character, the feudal-like carry-on, and the patronising sexism towards Malcolm and Ward-Lealand.

Read his article

Also worth checking out is Ian Mune’s interview on Breakfast TV

Matt McCarten for Mana

October 27, 2010

Matt McCarten, leader of Unite union, has announced today he’s standing in the Mana (Wellington) by-election.

Formerly the Alliance party president, Matt has plenty of experience in running electoral campaigns. But his real strength lies in his hands-on experience in fighting for workers’ rights. That is a rare thing in politics these days, where parliament is awash with bland, middle-class liberals.

Since founding Unite union in 2003 Matt McCarten has been a prominent figure in the union’s campaigns for low paid casualised workers. He has shown an absolute commitment to building a new movement for workers.

He is running as an independent, endorsed by the Executive of the union.

As well as hammering home the message that the minimum wage needs to be lifted to $15 an hour, Matt can be expected to put the heat on Labour, a workers party in name only.

Kiwis are birds mate!

October 26, 2010

Militant unionism and patriotism have never really got on. Film maker Peter Jackson concluded his Labour Day attack on unions with the claim:

“Turning us into another state of Australia under the sway of a destructive organisation carries the very real risk of destroying the great big heart that beats inside our films. I believe the Kiwi way of doing things should be protected and celebrated.”

A Socialist Aotearoa website piece appearing the same day suggested the exact opposite:

“Labour day 2010, we are actually in the midst of a vast upsurge in working class activity” Socialist Aotearoa described unionist Robyn Malcolm’s defence of Equity as “typical Kiwi sentiment.”

Socialist Aotearoa’s article is the latest in a series of recent far left attempts to legitimize their wares as some sort of genuine Kiwiana.

Socialist Worker organizer Grant Morgan described his contingent’s entry into Gaza as, “a fantastic victory, and all Kiwis who care about a fair go for all will be proud that our own Kia Ora Gaza team is part of this humanitarian breakthrough.”

Socialist Worker Tax Justice campaign coordinator Vaughan Gunson, said, “For most Kiwis it’s immoral that food should be made more expensive by a tax.”

Traditionally, self described caring Kiwis seeking a fair go have come from the right.  Like the 1981 Auckland anti union “Kiwis Care” march. Or, more recently, John Key’s 2007 State of the Nation speech:

“I want to talk about what I consider to be an important part of The Kiwi Way”, John began. “Part of The Kiwi Way is a belief in opportunity and in giving people a fair go. We want all kids to have a genuine opportunity to use their talents and to get rewarded for their efforts. That’s The Kiwi Way, and I believe in it.” Read the rest of this entry »

Workers Party statement on the Hobbit dispute

October 25, 2010

An actors’ union attempt to negotiate better work conditions has sparked the most heated class struggle in recent memory.

The workers’ initial claims were modest.

Robyn Malcolm standing up for workers' rights

As the latest Actors Equity newsletter puts it, the union:

… has been working to improve performers’ terms and conditions in the screen industry for some time now. We have tried a number of avenues, including: approaches to SPADA (Screen Producers’ and Development Association) to negotiate a standard industry agreement; seeking to negotiate directly on individual projects with production companies (e.g. Outrageous Fortune); and harnessing our relationships with international fellow unions to elevate conditions for all New Zealand performers (e.g. The Hobbit).

For a number of reasons some of these approaches have not delivered our goals. Our experience shows that the existing guidelines for the engagement of performers in the screen industry (“The Pink Book”) are rarely complied with in their entirety, and performers have been unable to insist on such compliance. Individual approaches to productions have also been problematic, and can only work when performers on the production have sufficient leverage. Our attempts to date have met with fierce resistance from production companies and made the legitimate desire of performers to negotiate together a high-risk strategy.

Because talk didn’t deliver any improvements for their members, the union used the only strategy remaining to it and took action.

A month ago, in collaboration with Australian entertainment unions, Equity issued a do-not-work order, refusing work on The Hobbit without a union-negotiated contract.

Backed up by a violent storm of anti union agitation from the government and the capitalist media, the film’s producers refused to negotiate, saying the actors would need to talk to the national producers’ body, SPADA. Actors Equity and SPADA met last week and withdrew the do-not-work order.

The response of the right was to put the boot in harder. Read the rest of this entry »

The Hobbit union witch hunt

October 23, 2010

In the next issue of The Spark we’ll have an article about the Hobbit dispute. In the meantime, here are some comments from The Spark and Workers Party discussion groups over the past week.

Bring back slavery

The Hobbit union witch hunt continues apace, now with the threat of new anti worker laws. We used to get stick for launching big strikes, now we get it for threats that don’t get carried through.

I think Equity was too quick to hitch a ride on international union muscle, underestimating the opposition, insufficient preparation and also not considering the reaction of the tech workers and other workers who might be affected.

Hindsight is always easy and I don’t rush to blame Equity. On a smaller scale I’ve made similar hasty union moves and come to grief. The actors union had good intentions to redress a hell of a lot of injustice - injustice which still stands.

Read the rest of this entry »

Mates & Lovers: interview with Ronald Trifero Nelson

October 19, 2010

Chris Brickell’s book Mates and Lovers: A History of Gay New Zealand sheds light on a part of our history previously confined to closets and court records, detailing the history of male homosexuality in this country since the 19th Century. Spark journalist Ian Anderson speaks to Ronald Trifero Nelson, who has adapted this book for the theatre.

To start with, what do you set out to do when you make theatre?

Well it’s an old Fabian idea, to entertain and educate.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filipino progressive leaders to tour NZ Oct/Nov

October 13, 2010


Luis Jaladoni and Coni Ledesma


Luis Jalandoni is the International Representative of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDF, http://www.ndfp.net), a post that he has held since 1977, and since 1994 he has been the Chairperson of the NDF’s Negotiating Panel for peace talks with the Government of the Philippines. The NDF is the coalition of several underground groups, including the Communist Party of the Philippines and its New People’s Army, which has been waging a war of liberation throughout the Philippines for more than 40 years, making it one of the longest running armed struggles in the world.

The country desperately needs peace with justice and security, so resolving this people’s war is central to that. Luis will be accompanied by his wife Coni Ledesma, who will also be speaking. She is a member of the NDF Negotiating Panel for peace talks; and is the International Spokesperson of MAKIBAKA, a revolutionary women’s group which belongs to the NDF. Luis and Coni are both veteran leading figures in the Philippine revolutionary Left. He was a Catholic priest in the 1960s and she was a nun.  Both were founders of Christians for National Liberation, a member group of the NDF. Read the rest of this entry »

Amongst the Rubble: a look at the Christchurch Earthquake from the Bottom Up

October 10, 2010

The Spark October 2010

reprinted from Beyond Resistance*

While the dust settles and Christchurch recovers from the 7.1 earthquake, people have begun to pick up the pieces and get on with their lives. But for many working class people this is not so easy. Those most affected by ‘natural disasters’ - whether by the tsunami in the Pacific, earthquakes in Haiti, Chile and now Christchurch, NZ - are those already on the margins of despair.

As the impact of the quake became known we saw the authorities rush to ‘lock down’ the CBD, and after a short time brought in the military in a quasi ‘martial law’ scenario. With the aid of the corporate media and using the odd collapsed and damaged building as a backdrop, a sensational picture was painted of a city in ruins. Their reports were far from helpful - heavily recycling dramatic images while providing little concrete advice and information for those of us on the ground. Read the rest of this entry »

What about the workers?

October 6, 2010

The Spark October 2010
Philip Fergusson

While the media has emphasised how everyone in Canterbury has pulled together in the aftermath of the quake, workers in a number of businesses have found themselves short of pay, being forced to work straight after the quake when they needed some recovery time and being forced to use up holiday pay. Well, at least until Unite union and local activists from groups like the Workers Party and Beyond Resistance got on their case.

Unite local organiser Matt Jones called for a “Tour of Shame”, a series of pickets for Sunday, September 19 to highlight four particular employers over these kinds of abuses. Two of the four outfits (a Subway store and Readings at the Palms) gave in before the Sunday. In the Subway case, this meant paying out their staff full pay. Read the rest of this entry »


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