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 »


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