All is not gold that glitters… New Zealand unions rebel over Hobbit film

It may sound like light-hearted news from the ‘human interest’ section of the newspapers, but for the unions and film industry in New Zealand it is a serious affair: the struggle over the unionization and contractual terms of the workers who are to work on the new Hobbit movies for fabled ‘Kiwi’ filmmaker Sir Peter Jackson. For a long time the movie plans were dormant due to the bankruptcy of would-be producer Metro Goldwyn Mayer, leading among other things to the prospective film director Guillermo Del Toro giving up on it, but Jackson himself has taken on the film production project and the whole thing seems to have been given the green light. Now, however, a full-blown industrial and legislative dispute has arisen over the plans by Sir Peter Jackson to employ most of the technical workers as well as minor actors as freelance contractors rather than full employees, meaning they would not be entitled to sick leave and similar workers’ rights. Due to the nature of film production, with cycles of little activity followed by period of intense and long work days to get shooting, prop and technical work done on time, the common ‘worker bees’ in the film industry are already subject to relatively harsh conditions compared to most skilled labor in Western countries. Continue reading “All is not gold that glitters… New Zealand unions rebel over Hobbit film”