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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
From Variety: Unions to thesps:" Don't work on The Hobbit"
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Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Sep 26 2010, 3:58pm

Post #26 of 330 (2919 views)
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Historically: Unions came into existence when Owners, Management & Government [In reply to] Can't Post

refused to protect the workers. They are formed to give collective voice to the individuals with the least power. They can bring balance to the distribution of wealth produced by the collective effort of all involved. Without a collective voice, the individual worker is at the mercy of Owners and Management and is easily exploited and abused. If everyone lived by the rule of gold (Do to others as you would have them do to you) Unions would not be necessary.

K.S.

Kangi Ska

Make the Hobbit Happen Now!

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VoronwŽ_the_Faithful
Valinor

Sep 26 2010, 4:14pm

Post #27 of 330 (2891 views)
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Power corrupts, even unions [In reply to] Can't Post

While what you say is perfectly true, and while it is also perfectly true that unions continue to provide a necessary function, it is also true that the leaders of unions sometimes get corrupted by the power that they wield, and act in ways that are not always in the best interests of their members. I'm not saying that is the case here - I just don't know because I don't have enough information - but I have certainly seen it happen in the past, and their are a few warning signs that I see here.

'But very bright were the stars upon the margin of the world, when at times the clouds about the West were drawn aside.'

www.arda-reconstructed.com


Hellmistress
Lorien


Sep 26 2010, 5:06pm

Post #28 of 330 (2827 views)
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The leaders ... [In reply to] Can't Post

... of the unions involved here are working actors who are voted by their peers into the jobs - they will be doing themselves out of work as well. Many of them are not so-called 'A-list' actors, but jobbing actors who rely on gigs to pay the bills and put food on the table. As Kangi said, if everyone did what they were supposed to do, then unions would not be needed - but sadly, that is never the case because the people who make the big bucks are always keen to make more by denying those who work hard for them. The film industry is is one of the worst industries for abusing its workers. Many actors, rich or poor, take on indie projects that they do for love, because the project is something that strikes a chord with them. They don't expect to be paid well, and take a minimum wage for the gig (and incidentally, a LOT of these Indie movies are union movies, and producers who are juggling a budget of thousands instead of $150 million STILL give their actors and crew what they are entitled to). But just because actors are 'artists' doesn't mean they have to starve for their art.

I'm sorry, but getting a bit part in THE HOBBIT and expect the kudos to feed the kids judt doesn't work - it's a job, they deserve a decent wage. They won't get it without pressure, and the unions have taken the decision to object. Of course it's a high-profile film. Of course it will hit the press. If they did it with a little foreign-language indie movie about slave labour in wherever, no one would give a darn. But THE HOBBIT? Yep - they can use the film's notoriety as a lever. I would do it too. Good luck to them.

HM


In Reply To
While what you say is perfectly true, and while it is also perfectly true that unions continue to provide a necessary function, it is also true that the leaders of unions sometimes get corrupted by the power that they wield, and act in ways that are not always in the best interests of their members. I'm not saying that is the case here - I just don't know because I don't have enough information - but I have certainly seen it happen in the past, and their are a few warning signs that I see here.



Kangi Ska
Half-elven


Sep 26 2010, 5:57pm

Post #29 of 330 (2799 views)
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Humans are fallible [In reply to] Can't Post

Unions are subject to the same problems that the rest of social organizations suffer from, no more no less.

Kangi Ska

Make the Hobbit Happen Now!

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Kristin Thompson
Rohan


Sep 26 2010, 6:41pm

Post #30 of 330 (2974 views)
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Peter's response to the unions' demands [In reply to] Can't Post

I've got the full text of a four-page statement by PJ on the threatened boycott on The Frodo Franchise, along with the Dominion Post coverage.He's ready to fight, and apparently Warner Bros. and the other studios involved are as well.


macfalk
Valinor


Sep 26 2010, 6:48pm

Post #31 of 330 (2872 views)
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Still. It's the worst possible timing. If the wages are bad, pick another job. The unions are putting one of the most anticipated movies on film history at stake. It should be an honor to work on The Hobbit. I'd do it for free, and gladly so. [In reply to] Can't Post

 


(This post was edited by macfalk on Sep 26 2010, 6:49pm)


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 26 2010, 6:55pm

Post #32 of 330 (2931 views)
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It seems this is the key paragraph: [In reply to] Can't Post

- NZ law prohibits engaging in collective bargaining with any labour organisation representing performers who are independent contractors, as film actors clearly are. The NZ Commerce Act claims it would be unlawful to engage with an Australian Union on these matters.


It comes down to the interpretation of whether or not an actor is an independent contractor or not.

NZ employment law allows workers to be part of a collective employment agreement or an individual one. I don't believe that independent contractors can be part of a collective agreement.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Pipe Dream
Gondor


Sep 26 2010, 6:56pm

Post #33 of 330 (2819 views)
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Yikes! [In reply to] Can't Post

 How long will this take to get resolved?...and what else can happen to stall this production? Maybe we should start a pool on other possible future scenarios.

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Pre-Pre-production goes ever on and on...


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 26 2010, 7:01pm

Post #34 of 330 (2868 views)
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The Collective is only as good as its jurisdiction [In reply to] Can't Post

1. The only way unions are going to be fair and effective is if they are global. Otherwise industries will move to where costs are lower. It's happening to Hollywood and it's happening to the American automobile industry (to name a few).

2. I'm not ignorant of the possibility of the "little guy" getting squeezed but it should also always be kept in mind that a balance of power is needed - extremes on both sides do exist.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.

(This post was edited by Tim on Sep 26 2010, 7:03pm)


Kristin Thompson
Rohan


Sep 26 2010, 7:15pm

Post #35 of 330 (3111 views)
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Peter, Fran, and Philippa as union members [In reply to] Can't Post

Actually, I wouldn't have known the answer to your question until Peter mentioned his union membership in his new statement. He says he's a member of the Directors Guild, the Producers Guild, and the Writers Guild. Not the SAG, since I doubt his cameos in his films would qualify him for union membership! I would imagine that Fran is a member of at least the Producers and Writers groups, and Philippa of the Writers.

You're quite welcome for the links. At first I was thinking that the rise in the number of posts on The Frodo Franchise might be a sign of the greenlight approaching, but now there are even more posts and more bad news! Unsure


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 26 2010, 7:27pm

Post #36 of 330 (2881 views)
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PJ needed to step in and get out his side and he did - good job [In reply to] Can't Post

My personal opinion is that this is a grab for power. It does not represent a problem that needs a solution. There will always be differing opinions when it comes down to work and conditions, but I have always attempted to treat my actors and crew with fairness and respect. We have created a very favourable profit sharing pool for the non-Union actors on The Hobbit

He says he's set up a fair pay system and I believe him. This is a case where a union doesn't need to step in and it shouldn't.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Kristin Thompson
Rohan


Sep 26 2010, 7:39pm

Post #37 of 330 (2881 views)
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People who work for PJ are very loyal [In reply to] Can't Post

Over and over when I was doing the interviews for my book, people told me how much they enjoyed working for the various companies that Peter and his team run. I was struck by what Alex Funke (head of the miniatures cinematography unit and a two-time Oscar winner for LOTR) said about this: "It's a very humane group of people. Richard is very humane with his people. Peter's very humane with his people. They're very much concerned not only about excellent work and getting the job done but about the fact that the people are actually being treated right--which unfortunately I can't say for a lot of Hollywood." (p. 309, The Frodo Franchise). Alex was one of the people well-established within the Hollywood film industry who moved permanently to New Zealand after they started working on LOTR. He is one happy man to be working and living down there, and I'm sure he was not the only one.

I don't understand all the union politics, and there are some enormous Hollywood companies involved here, not just Peter's company. But if Peter is right in saying that Warners has voluntarily agreed to set up a fund for getting residuals to the actors, it sounds like a conflict that will hurt the very people it is purportedly supposed to help. If the Hobbit production is moved elsewhere, it will hurt the Australian film industry as well as that of New Zealand.


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 26 2010, 7:42pm

Post #38 of 330 (2870 views)
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From a quick bit of Googling [In reply to] Can't Post

it appears that the decision of whether a person is an employee or a contractor comes down to an agreement at the start of the relationship with the employer. From PJ's perspective, actors are contractors so he would hardly sign anyone who would ask instead for an employment agreement.

I believe that only employees are covered by unions, not contractors.

More information (which may be more than you want to know):

Contractors vs employees

Department of Labour

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 26 2010, 7:44pm

Post #39 of 330 (2781 views)
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Good on PJ then [In reply to] Can't Post

And that just strengthens my inclination to take his side in this mess.

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.


Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 26 2010, 8:21pm

Post #40 of 330 (2763 views)
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I have to wonder [In reply to] Can't Post

I wonder just how much of the poor treatment of the LOTR actors came not from the fact that some of them weren't unionized, but actually stemmed from New Line itself? I wonder that because it sounds like NZ actors, unionized actors, up to the director himself were all treated unfairly by New Line; thus, the lawsuits. So, comparing this situation to that one may be like comparing apples to oranges.

I also wonder, as PJ intimated, why the majority of NZ actors aren't unionized? If they wanted to be unionized, it sounds like they've had plenty of opportunities: case in point - the 200 NZ actors that *are* members of the union. Presumably, the other 1800 have already decided that it's not advantageous to them. The ultimate decision of whether being in a union is good for them should be left up to them and not be pushed down their throats by large organizations that have their own agendas to push - especially if the unions know full well that collective bargaining is illegal in NZ.


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase



TORn Calendar


Ataahua
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 26 2010, 8:52pm

Post #41 of 330 (2777 views)
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Not quite. [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
especially if the unions know full well that collective bargaining is illegal in NZ.



Union members can be part of collective bargaining for a collective employment contract. Workers who choose to be on individual employment contracts can't be part of a collective bargaining agreement.

Contractors are outside that again.

Celebrimbor: "Pretty rings..."
Dwarves: "Pretty rings..."
Men: "Pretty rings..."
Sauron: "Mine's better."

"Ah, how ironic, the addictive qualities of Sauronís master weapon led to its own destruction. Which just goes to show, kids - if you want two small and noble souls to succeed on a mission of dire importance... send an evil-minded b*****d with them too." - Gandalf's Diaries, final par, by Ufthak.


Ataahua's stories


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Sep 26 2010, 9:06pm

Post #42 of 330 (2733 views)
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As dormouse said above [In reply to] Can't Post

and you have inferred, the fight here is really between unions off shore to NZ and the NZ government. While no one can take away a worker's right to withhold their labour -- and it may or may not be in NZ actors best interests to do so in this case -- NZ adopted the terms of what I believe to be the first Structural Adjustment Program offered by the IMF some two decades ago. The terms of the SAP included, among other things, limits on unionization and bargaining but strangely not much in the way of removing the trade barriers that protect the domestic labour market that is keeping, also among others, foreign Hobbit hopefuls at bay.

I agree that the anticipated size of the Hobbit is part of the allure for this latest campaign on the part of US based talent and production unions. I wonder if the production was based in North America if the unions would have even considered it as a target? It seems, and this touches on the spirit of VtF's post, that in the present NA economic state that the decision was taken as not to cause further hardship to themselves at home.

Of course, as you say, in retrospect the state of LOTR pay and benefits were bad across the board. This may be a simple attempt to build in some guarantees before the film is made to stave off the nastiness and bad publicity that comes from trying to collect after the money is socked away who knows where. Even PJ had difficulty collecting his fair share after the fact.


Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 26 2010, 9:08pm

Post #43 of 330 (3188 views)
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Ah, thanks. Then it comes down to whether they are contractors or employees - and there is precedence [In reply to] Can't Post

...that they are contractors:

From one of your links:


Quote
The leading case is Bryson vs. Three Foot Six, Ltd. ... Mr Bryson worked for Three Foot Six, Ltd., which filmed special effects for the Lord of the Rings movies. When made redundant, Mr Bryson lodged a personal grievance for unjustifiable dismissal - an action available to him only if he had been an employee. The Employment Relations Authority said Mr Bryson had been a contractor and could not pursue a personal grievance.




The article goes on to say that the employee vs. contractor distinction can't be made simply by putting certain key words in an agreement, but ise instead based on the nature of the agreement, historically applied tests and industry practice. So, it sounds like it all hinges on whether actors in NZ have traditionally been considered contractors. If they have, then being part of a union would still disallow them to use collective bargaining.

Thanks for the links, Ataahua. Interesting stuff.


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase



TORn Calendar

(This post was edited by Altaira on Sep 26 2010, 9:09pm)


Hellmistress
Lorien


Sep 26 2010, 9:20pm

Post #44 of 330 (2890 views)
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Sorry, but this is irrelevant ... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
Still. It's the worst possible timing. If the wages are bad, pick another job. The unions are putting one of the most anticipated movies on film history at stake. It should be an honor to work on The Hobbit. I'd do it for free, and gladly so.



... it's a job, and they should get a fair wage. Honour be damned - honour doesn't feed your family. Good on PJ for apparently offering decent conditions for his actors and crew, but he doesn't make every film in New Zealand - there will be many studios who film in NZ who walk all over their cast and crew. As I've said before, yes, the unions have decided to use THE HOBBIT as a lever. Horrible for us, I know, but whatever the hoo-hah, and whatever the small print, this will have to be resolved. The threat to 'walk' to other less expensive locations has always been a favourite of film studios, and many have gone to non-union countries and taken advantage of the low costs. Yes, I know they have to look to their budget, and I understand that - but a big film(s) such as TH is in a proverbial goldfish bowl, especially due to the fallout from the LotR hoo-hah over pay and conditions, and they've left themselves wide open to union intervention. And to be honest, this should have been looked at and resolved long ago. If they thought there was going to be a problem, they should have addressed it, especially as the film is hopefully on the point of being greenlit. AND I have a sneaky suspicion that something smelly lurks in the corporate woodpile if the unions are suddenly kicking up a stink and making it a very public one at that. I shall be interested to see how this resolves itself. It surely is one helluva mess.

HM


(This post was edited by Hellmistress on Sep 26 2010, 9:27pm)


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Sep 26 2010, 9:54pm

Post #45 of 330 (2821 views)
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So true, that's why even people who work for unions have unions. / [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Hellmistress
Lorien


Sep 26 2010, 10:05pm

Post #46 of 330 (2840 views)
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Yes indeed ... [In reply to] Can't Post

Sly

In Reply To



Kirly
Lorien


Sep 26 2010, 10:05pm

Post #47 of 330 (3548 views)
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It's a lonely battle you wage here Tim [In reply to] Can't Post

but i agree with you and i agree with what was quoted as said by Peter Jackson.

I have seen unions in the USA literally organize themselves and their members permanently right out of jobs.

if NZ is anything like USA (or the unions there are anything like the unions here), i would expect to see lawsuits dragged out for years demanding that the NZ law be re-interpreted such that the actors there can be both independent contractors AND unionized.

someone said something about the golden rule (do unto others...). i agree with that.

what a huge mess this all is.


DarthNeeson
The Shire

Sep 26 2010, 10:12pm

Post #48 of 330 (2927 views)
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If I were Peter, I would just throw my hands in the air and say... [In reply to] Can't Post

"Screw the whole thing."

This is ridiculous. One problem after the other. I don't see why anyone would want to put up with all of this after so long.

Clearly these films are not meant to be, and Lord of the Rings should just stand on its own. It's a pity. It really is...


Altaira
Superuser / Moderator


Sep 26 2010, 10:36pm

Post #49 of 330 (2871 views)
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But, if that were true [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
there will be many studios who film in NZ who walk all over their cast and crew.


I don't think it's true across the board that just because a set of workers isn't unionized they're automatically being mis-treated. If that were true, wouldn't all NZ actors have joined the NZ actor's union already? If they're so mis-treated, why would union membership be the exception rather than the rule?

I agree that, in many cases, unions can get better wages and working conditions for their employees, but it's not a requirement, and it comes at a cost in the form of union dues and, as we're seeing now, rules that may actually prevent members from working. It's a moot point anyway if NZ actors are considered under NZ law to be contractors (see Ataahua's posts below). Given that particular legal environment, I have to question whether the unions give a hoot about the NZ actors at all.


Koru: Maori symbol representing a fern frond as it opens. The koru reaches towards the light, striving for perfection, encouraging new, positive beginnings.



"Life can't be all work and no TORn" -- jflower

"I take a moment to fervently hope that the camaradarie and just plain old fun I found at TORn will never end" -- LOTR_nutcase



TORn Calendar


Tim
Tol Eressea


Sep 26 2010, 11:00pm

Post #50 of 330 (2866 views)
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Heh heh I don't feel lonely ;-) [In reply to] Can't Post

Some of my posts on this subject got deleted because I put them in another thread that no longer exists. Life isn't simple and unions aren't the "boogeyman". But the fact is this - until unions go global and are in one accord there's always going to be somewhere else for business to go to. That's what's happening to the American auto industry right now. Unions there put them at a disadvantage with their foreign competitors. That's a reality. I'm not saying it's right, it's just the way it is. So until unions cover all of terra firma jobs are going to keep migrating and people are going to get hurt in the process.

At this point I'm thoroughly confused. What, exactly, does this union want PJ to do? Break the law? He can't.

And if PJ is offering fair wages to his folks - I don't see union actors refusing to work for him (like Ian McKellan).

King Arthur: Who are you who can summon fire without flint or tinder?
Tim: There are some who call me... Tim.

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