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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Parliament Passes Hobbit Bill
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Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 29 2010, 3:23pm

Post #26 of 33 (3185 views)
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I agree with this point [In reply to] Can't Post

To the mind of an American, the idea of signing a contract as one thing but later being able to declare that you're really something else is vague and baffling. The fact that there had already been a lawsuit involving PJ's company dealing with this, and the ruling flip-flopped a couple times might be seen as an open door for problems in the future.

It WAS a cause for concern and I can understand WB or PJ or individual actors being concerned. Legal costs far into the future can be estimated I suppose but not budgeted and thus they can throw a monkey wrench into a company's or production's or an individual's budget planning. The only people that really win in the case of legal ambiguity are the lawyers. The clearer the law is the better it is for those who are trying to abide by it. If I were to consider being an actor in New Zealand, it would be nice to know clearly where I stand legally.


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


Gandalf'sMother
Rohan

Oct 29 2010, 3:56pm

Post #27 of 33 (3162 views)
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Actually [In reply to] Can't Post

I have some faith that they would. But as you must know by now, this change in the law is NOt just about Warners and this film. This affects all film productions conducted in New Zealand. And no, I do NOt have faith that all movie studios will treat their "contractors" in a way that is MORE fair than the law allows. The change in the law completely disincentives such fair treatment.

Now, a studio can draw up a contract for an independent contractor. The contractor signs on. As time passes, it becomes clear that the contractor is a contractor only in name. He or she does the work of an employee, is at the whim of the employer, has to use an employer's facilities, must adhere to the wildly varying and uncertain schedules of the employers, etc (see Voronwe's analysis for more). Yet despite this, the "independent contractor" will have no recourse to support his request to be reclassified as an employee. The studio, his or her employer, will have no incentive to do so because the law gives no incentive for it. And, of course, the contractor will have zero recourse. His or her options in that case are to keep working under these unfavorable conditions, quit, or be fired.

A bad law, constructed hastily under severe pressure, that needs to be changed. The significant split in the final vote is just one indication that this is much fishier than many thought.

We've had our drinks, we've sung our songs, and now its time to let sober analysis determine whether or not the right thing was done.


Tim
Tol Eressea


Oct 29 2010, 4:26pm

Post #28 of 33 (3222 views)
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Let me clarify my position [In reply to] Can't Post

Pretend I'm a dude living in New Zealand considering a film job. It's nice to know legally where I stand before I make that choice. I can go into the interview, ask what's going to be expected of me and then make my own determination whether or not the job is something I want to take on as either a contractor or an employee. That's all I'm saying. If this leads into a rash of employment where people are being hired as contractors where they weren't being hired as contractors before that would be something worth looking at, but it seems that the "independent contractor" hiring practice in New Zealand for films was the norm anyway. I don't see this law outlawing unions. I don't see it prohibiting citizens getting together and making further changes to the law.

The whole, "if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck it is a duck" doesn't really fly with me. I've worked side-by-side with people doing the exact same job they're doing but I agreed to do it under a different set of employment rules than they did. I thought and still do think it is fair for me to be held to the agreement I made initially regarding my employment. I have a responsibility as well to enter into agreements and mean it when I say I agree to the contract.

I agree that there should be some kind of recourse in case of employment disputes, but going to court should be a last resort. Clear law makes it easier for citizens to see the flaws in the law and address those flaws legislatively or contractually rather than dragging a dispute through the courts.

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


SirDennisC
Half-elven


Oct 29 2010, 5:04pm

Post #29 of 33 (3198 views)
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Well reasoned. // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Jettorex
Lorien


Oct 29 2010, 5:33pm

Post #30 of 33 (3352 views)
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other things to consider [In reply to] Can't Post

Hi all
I responded to Moahunter, but this really just a reply in general. I think this is a good and important discussion and I see everyones point about this.
But a couple of things to point out, in general terms of contractor/employee discussion.

Sometimes, especially in tough financial times, a company will not approve a position to be filled, whether it is a replacement position or a new position, for regular employment, but will approve it to be filled by a contractor. For a community that may already have low levels of employment, it allows for someone to be hired and make an income, as well as still allow the company to increase production.

There are also other possible benefits of being a contractor than a regular employee. Usually, a contractor, in lew of receiving company benefits (ie-health benefits) will be payed more than a regular employee in the same position. This is one reason why a lot of people prefer to be contractors- higher pay (and more options). If someones spouse is a regular employee with a company and receives benefits, again the main one being health insurance, it covers the whole family (so the other spouse does not need it) and they are then bringing in more income to the family as a contractor. Of course someone who is single, may just want the higher pay, and not want the lower pay and benefits for whatever their personal reasons.

Also, in some situations being a contractor can actually protect you more than being a regular employee. As a contractor, you sign a contract with a company for a secific amout of time. The company legally has to pay you for that time frame no matter what. As a regular employee a company can terminate the relationship"at will" (as can the employee) for reduction in work forcei.e. layoffs at any time with compensation ending accordingly.


My main point is that being a contractor has its benefits also, especially for people who might prefer to be a contractor.


- "I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve."





Huan71
Lorien

Oct 29 2010, 8:44pm

Post #31 of 33 (3078 views)
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Just to get things straight... [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
There are also other possible benefits of being a contractor than a regular employee. Usually, a contractor, in lew of receiving company benefits (ie-health benefits) will be payed more than a regular employee in the same position. This is one reason why a lot of people prefer to be contractors- higher pay (and more options). If someones spouse is a regular employee with a company and receives benefits, again the main one being health insurance, it covers the whole family (so the other spouse does not need it) and they are then bringing in more income to the family as a contractor. Of course someone who is single, may just want the higher pay, and not want the lower pay and benefits for whatever their personal reasons.

My main point is that being a contractor has its benefits also, especially for people who might prefer to be a contractor.



Just want to clarify a few points...
Is there a difference between a temporary worker from, say, an employment agency, and a contractor in the sense that you mean?
I work in a factory (in the UK) and we have LOADS of agency temps (mostly from eastern Europe) and they are paid minimum wage and generally treated like lower class citizens. This is true of a lot of places i've worked where the management just use them to save money and get rid of them ASAP if they want.

I cant help wondering how many of the points you've raised would apply to some lowly paid jobbing actor whose getting bit parts as and when they can?


squire
Valinor


Oct 29 2010, 10:27pm

Post #32 of 33 (3164 views)
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Are contractors more protected than employees, in some ways [In reply to] Can't Post

As has been pointed out several times here, we draw parallels between our own experiences and the situation in NZ at our own risk. But I wonder if you are correct in saying that independent contractors there have the advantage over employees when it comes to job security:
"As a contractor, you sign a contract with a company for a specific amount of time. The company legally has to pay you for that time frame no matter what. As a regular employee a company can terminate the relationship "at will" (as can the employee) for reduction in work force, i.e. layoffs at any time with compensation ending accordingly."
I have been both an independent contractor and an employee in the film business in NYC. My contracts never specified a set time span (days, weeks, etc.) during which the company had to pay me "no matter what". That would have been madness, given the uncertainties of showbiz. What was specified was my rate of pay, to be paid for work completed according to the schedule and scope of work. It was understood that I could be terminated and paid off for work completed at any time, for non-performance or any other reason - like the film/show going on hiatus or being canceled, etc. Likewise, the amount of time I would work was whatever it took to do what I had contracted to do. That meant: as many hours in the day, or days in the week, as needed, for the straight pay that was written in the contract. Obviously any contractor makes the choice to take the job, but as we all know, in most employment markets that's not really a choice unless you are the world's most famous practitioner of your particular craft.

When I worked as an employee I was generally far better protected in this regard, thanks to my union overtime contract - which forced the producers to consider the lives and energy of their employees before doubling the amount of work for all concerned to make up for errors in scheduling or changes in the script. Employees generally got several weeks notice and/or pay if their employment was terminated due to layoffs. The whole point of a contracted work force is that the contract is written to the advantage of the company, and individual contractors who try to bend it their way have to negotiate individually, which is the weakest way to negotiate.

Companies with a reasonably steady flow of income (like effects houses and scene shops) prefer to use employees, for all the higher costs, so that they can build up a flexible, experienced, and productive team that can work on one or many productions at the same time. Companies with a one-time-only job to do, such as film productions, much prefer their people to be contractors, because the costs are much lower and their freedom to hire and fire on a dime is complete.

As you point out, crafts workers (actors and technicians in the arts) may wish to be either contractors or employees, for any number of personal reasons. But a contractor has no job security at all, and he or she must always bet that the working conditions and professional advancement of each new job will justify the risk of accepting straight pay for unlimited hours.

It has been reported - there's no way to say how accurately - that LotR producer Barry Osborne said at the 2001 Fellowship premiere in Wellington that he wished he had been able to treat more of his people on that film as contractors, so that he could fire them more quickly when he felt he had to. If I understand the point of the new NZ legislation, it closes the door that had been cracked open by the courts, whereby a contractor could be judged an employee based on legal equity, i.e. the inherent nature of the actual work and conditions. The result would seem to be that production companies can now hire only contractors, work them just like employees, and never fear any hint of unionization since NZ law forbids collective bargaining by contractors: a complete defeat for NZ's unions.

But is this a bad thing? That depends entirely on the NZ people concerned, of course.



squire online:
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Peredhil lover
Valinor


Oct 30 2010, 1:39pm

Post #33 of 33 (3072 views)
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My thoughts [In reply to] Can't Post


Quote
It has been reported - there's no way to say how accurately - that LotR producer Barry Osborne said at the 2001 Fellowship premiere in Wellington that he wished he had been able to treat more of his people on that film as contractors, so that he could fire them more quickly when he felt he had to.

That quote has left me wondering - if he really said that, was that for financial reasons, meaning so they didn't need to get paid any day longer than they are needed for the making of the film? Or had it to do with their own behaviour? I can't even pretend to have any idea how that is handled otherwhere, but in my own work place we have had a number of people who were long-time employees who could not be simply fired. Some of these knew that and used that to their advantage; they were, to put it very mildly, resting on their laurels and barely doing anything. In fact, in some of these cases it bordered on refusal to work, and the other colleagues had to manage their work in addition to their own to keep the business running. We regretted all that they couldn't just be fired on the spot.

So I wonder if there weren't just some bad eggs like that among the employees? In *that* case I could understand Barry's complaint. (Mind you, I'm not saying that I agree with being able to fire everyone at will, because I don't think that is good, either. But there may be cases that are the exception to the rule) We'll probably never know, but as always, there are two sides to the argument.



I do not suffer from LotR obsession - I enjoy every minute of it.

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