New Zealand Law Society - Working Group recommends status quo in film-making law

Working Group recommends status quo in film-making law

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The Film Industry Working Group is recommending that the carve-out from the Employment Relations Act for film production workers – the so-called Hobbit law - be retained.

The group – which is headed by Kensington Swan Special Counsel, Linda Clark recommends in a report retaining the general principle of sections 6(1)(d) and 6(1A) of the Employment Relations Act 2000 – which confirm that film workers are treated as independent contractors unless they have a written employment agreement.

Furthermore the working group recommends this be extended to work performed, or services provided, in respect of the production of feature films, gaming, television, internet-delivered video recordings, and virtual and augmented reality imaging.

The report says this is due to the “unique nature” of the screen industry.

“All members of FIWG accept the need for flexibility in contracts that is different from other industries or workers,” it says.

Those unique factors include:

  • In a global market, if New Zealand wants a screen industry, it needs to be competitive.
  • The scale of productions made here ranges from the very small ‘home-style’ product to the massive foreign-produced product employing hundreds in multiple locations.
  • Producers choosing to film in New Zealand require certainty of cost and flexibility of conditions in order to complete a production on time and on budget.
  • The nature of filming requires flexibility and the ability to make late changes to schedules.

In addition the report carries four basic principles for all screen productions workers: good faith, protection from bullying, discrimination and harassment; fair and reasonable termination of contracts and a fair rate of pay.

The report says it recommendations would restore collective bargaining rights to workers, provide certainty to encourage continued investment in the industry, and allows competition between businesses providing screen production services.

The FIWG included representatives from the Council of Trade Unions, Business NZ, and various film groups such as Weta Digital, the Writers’ Guild and Equity New Zealand, the actors’ union.

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