Labour unveils intention to axe Hobbit laws

By Derek Cheng

Jane Ikuere, a cleaner at Parliament, chats with David Cunliffe after he announced Labour's work and wages policy. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Jane Ikuere, a cleaner at Parliament, chats with David Cunliffe after he announced Labour's work and wages policy. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The Labour Party wants to repeal the law changes that were ceded to Warner Bros over The Hobbit films, a move which the Government says would cripple the $3 billion screen industry.

Labour leader David Cunliffe and MP Andrew Little launched the party's work and wages policy yesterday, which included a boost to the minimum wage, and a commission of inquiry into workplace conditions.

Watch: Cunliffe's comments 'pretty silly'

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A $2 boost in the minimum wage to $16.25 an hour by early 2015 would mean an extra $4000 a year for those workers - but the Government was quick to dismiss this as costing up to 6000 jobs.

The package also included a pledge to repeal the laws that the Government changed after negotiations with Warner Bros executives in 2010.

The change made film workers independent contractors by default, meaning they had no ability to collectively bargain unless they were hired as employees from the start.

Mr Little said the change was unjustified.

"We are not going to have our employment law up for negotiation by big, rich, powerful industry players, because it suits the politician of the day. If you are a film or television worker, you won't be deprived of their right to bargain collectively if that is your choice."

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He said he had canvassed industry workers for their thoughts. "A lot felt duped and misled, and pretty angry. There was no justification for that law.

"New Zealand's film and television industry stands on its own. There are very talented people, with a strong infrastructure, and that will continue, but without a law that treats some of them unfairly."

Minister for Labour Simon Bridges said the change would deter major film companies from making movies in New Zealand, and threaten the industry, which employed 16,000 people.

"The law changes kept The Hobbit movies in New Zealand, and saved thousands of high-value jobs. We'd be back to where we were, which was a time of legal challenge and real uncertainty, and unions trying to vie for power and control."

Mr Bridges said the minimum wage in New Zealand was the highest in the world, relative to the average wage.

Advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment showed that a minimum wage of $16 an hour could see up to 6000 fewer jobs.

Mr Little dismissed the ministry's advice. "Every time the minimum wage went up under Labour, the official advice was that it was going to cost jobs. It never did."

Labour Party work policy

Minimum wage boost from $14.25 an hour to $15, and to $16.25 in early 2015.
Commission of Inquiry into work conditions and industry standards.
Repeal the 90-day trial for new workers and The Hobbit laws for screen workers.
The downside
Latest advice from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on minimum wage and employment growth
$15 an hour: potentially 5000 fewer jobs.
$16 an hour: 6000 jobs.
$18 an hour: 16,250 jobs.

- NZ Herald

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