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The biggest change ever to happen to the New Zealand screen industry is fast approaching. No, it’s not the merger of TVNZ and Radio NZ. It’s the Screen Industry Workers Bill (SIWB).

Before the end of the year, the SIWB is almost certain to become legislation.

Representative bodies for all workers in the screen industry, and DEGANZ is one of them, will engage with the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA) and perhaps others once the Bill becomes an Act, to negotiate collective agreements that will set minimum terms and conditions under which contract screen workers will carry out their work.

Writers, Actors, Directors, DOPs, Production Designers, Editors, Visual Effects Artists, Sound Engineers, Composers, Grips, Gaffers, Makeup Artists, Wardrobe Designers—the list goes on to cover every contractor involved in making Film, TV, Games and Advertising, with a few exceptions.

Everybody in those roles being negotiated for will get a say in deciding the terms and conditions for their roles, if they want, through a democratic voting process that will cover members of guilds and non-members alike.

These agreements will be for both domestic productions, and international productions shooting here.

The agreements will be baseline agreements, meaning terms and conditions cannot be any less than what is negotiated. However, those terms and conditions can be improved upon through Enterprise (individual productions) and Individual Contracts. Where there are no Enterprise or Individual Contracts, the collective agreements will apply.

Most people in the New Zealand screen industry have never experienced collective agreements in their roles. The change the SIWB will bring about is perhaps the biggest to happen now and into the future for screen.

Misinformation and disinformation about the Bill could well play a part from here on in. So it behoves everybody in the screen industry to get the facts about the SIWB, because it is going to affect every one of you directly.

From here on in, guilds, associations and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will be running education programmes to not only inform screen workers but also the general public about what is happening.

A simple explainer is available here.

The detail of the Bill will shortly be finalised and will go back to the House for its second reading. Then amendments will be made through Supplementary Order Papers with the changes recommended by Minister Michael Wood before finally being passed into law with Third Reading.

Once the Bill is passed, there will be some work to ensure that everyone working in the screen industry has a contract in writing that sets out some mandatory conditions to deal with sexual harassment, bullying and discrimination and a clause dealing with fair termination. After that it will take some time before DEGANZ sits down with SPADA to negotiate the collective contract setting out the minimums for pay and working conditions for our occupational groups, but we need to start getting ready now.

I encourage all DEGANZ members to make the utmost effort to understand the SIWB because it will be vitally important to your futures.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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What a horrible bloody year it’s been for the New Zealand screen industry.

Lockdowns interrupting domestic and international production here. Local films having their releases shortened or delayed. The New Zealand International Film Festival cancelled in Auckland. The LOTR TV series moving to the UK. Cowboy Bebob cancelled after one season. The list of woes goes on.

At the Guild, COVID has impacted significantly on our professional development programme, although we have managed to do some talks and workshops online. At least we have still been able to make progress on members’ rights, the Screen Industry Workers Bill, and the Reform of Vocational Education amongst other things, but it’s fair to say we, and I’m sure many others, are Zoomed out.

A lot of us have gone to the wall mentally, emotionally and financially in 2021. And as we close out the year we have the threat of the Omicron variant to prolong our COVID concerns. But as the US, the UK and Europe face massive rises in infection rates and increases in deaths, I believe we can still consider ourselves fortunate. Yes, some things could have been done better here in the face of this pandemic, but with our now close to 90% nationwide vaccination rate for those 12+, we seem to be in good shape to square off against the viral uncertainties of 2022.

Christmas and New Year are almost upon us and the festive cheer in some ways has never been more welcome.

It was any eye opener for me, having been isolated to the rural outskirts of Auckland for the last few months, to be in Ponsonby for Xmas lunch yesterday with the DEGANZ team. Aucklanders are out. Dollars are flowing into businesses and out into the regions, hopefully unaccompanied by COVID.

Film and TV production is back up, with crew looking to be busy as the year ends and through the summer.

NZFC told us today that a good bunch of our films—features and shorts—have had international success this year. Further, domestic production will be way up next year, thanks in part to the Premium Production Fund, and the level of international production spend forecast in NZ for 2022 looks set to match the average of previous years.

As you all hopefully take a restorative and enjoyable break across the weeks ahead, I’d like to thank you for your ongoing support of DEGANZ, whether as a member or collaborator with us in the guild’s purpose and activities. We couldn’t do it without you.

Meri Kirihimete!

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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I was fortunate to be invited as a guest to the New Zealander of the Year Awards last night. It was an eye-opener for me. It brought home how myopic I have become with the screen industry essentially consuming my every waking hour. When I’m not thinking about and doing my job here at the Guild, I’m more often than not working on moving my own projects forward.

At the Awards I got to see and hear about wonderful New Zealanders who work endlessly, tirelessly, and often voluntarily, consumed by their passions to do work that will benefit others.

There were many wonderful characters and stories in the semifinalists and finalists we were introduced to.

Georgia Hale has represented New Zealand in four sports, and uses her position as the Captain of the Womens Warriors Rugby League team to do community work throughout the country, working with young children, rural communities, the intellectually disabled and other charities. Georgia won the Young New Zealander of the Year.

Dame Margaret Sparrow is a long-time advocate of men’s and women’s reproductive rights.  She helped introduce the morning-after pill to New Zealand, has been a trailblazer for legal abortion here and is absolutely thrilled that after decades of effort, a bill to decriminalise abortion will soon go in front of the whole House. Dame Margaret won the Senior New Zealander of the Year Award.

Bill Buckley of Buckley Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of electro-magnets, won hearts and minds with his clear ‘Kiwiness’ and absolute passion for his latest effort. Buckley’s newest venture, Neutron Therapeutics, took on a task many others worldwide thought impossible: to build an accelerator that could be used in-hospital as a neutron source, replacing a nuclear reactor that was required to perform the same function.

Using the accelerator, Neutron Therapeutics has developed Boron Neutron Capture Therapy (BNCT) that allows the targeting of cancer at a cellular level. Buckley firmly believes that they will be able to eradicate brain tumours with the treatment. He won Innovator of the Year.

And just when you thought I’d completely moved off the screen industry, we come to actor and teacher Jennifer Ward-Lealand Te Atamira, who took out New Zealander of the Year. Jennifer was acknowledged for her ongoing dedication to Arts and Culture in theatre, film and TV and her passion for Te Reo Māori, showing through shining example her commitment to bi-culturalism and bi-lingualism in New Zealand. Jennifer, as many of you know, has run workshops for DEGNZ, passing on her knowledge and experience of working with actors. Congratulations, Jennifer, from us at the Guild!

There were other winners on the night and an equally-deserving large numbers of Kiwis who were nominated for the work they do in communities in New Zealand.

It was a breath of fresh air to put the screen industry aside and spend a few enjoyable hours hearing about Kiwi achievements from other walks of life.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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Almost a year ago, the Directors & Editors Guild of NZ membership voted to become a union. At this year’s AGM on Saturday 5 October, DEGNZ will adopt a new constitution that will allow the Guild to formalise its status as a union and affiliate with the Council of Trade Unions.

I thought it worthwhile to provide some background information that will help members to better understand what this change of status is all about.

In trawling the Interweb to find background material to write this op-ed, I came across a two-part article from US entertainment lawyer Christopher Shiller that has essentially done the job for me. Yes, it applies to the US situation for the screen industry but it’s very pertinent to us, particularly with the changes that will come about from the Film Industry Working Group recommendations to Government that DEGNZ was a part of.

Here are the links to that two-part series.

Legally Speaking, It Depends – Guild or Union, Part 1

Legally Speaking, It Depends – Guild or Union, Part 2

At our AGM, the NZ Council of Trade Unions President Richard Wagstaff will give an overview of the CTU and speak to the CTU’s perspective on the work being done by the Film Industry Working Group to address the inequities of the Hobbit Law.

I encourage you all to read the articles from the links, and to attend the AGM — this will be a momentous occasion for DEGNZ in regard to its work to ensure the creative, cultural and financial wellbeing of New Zealand directors and editors. Please RSVP to attend the AGM here.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive DIrector

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Ten years of business-focused government policy is now seeing a correction taking place in the New Zealand labour market.

Health and education have been the focus of recent labour matters, but thanks primarily to Radio New Zealand, the independent contractor market is now in the spotlight.

RNZ has put considerable effort into bringing into the open the plight of courier drivers, who are forced to operate as businesses, buying their own vehicles, uniforms, and scanners yet being dictated to by the companies that contract them as though they were employees. Worse, after deducting all their expenses, many it seems are earning less than the minimum wage. John Campbell interviewed Minister for Safety and Workplace relations Iain Lees-Galloway on this here. RNZ offered CEO Mark Troughear of Freightways, who owns NZ Couriers, the chance to respond here.

Thanks, or no thanks to the Hobbit Law, all film workers are classed as independent contractors and thus prevented from negotiating as a group to improve their terms and conditions.

Now I am not comparing the terms and conditions of courier drivers with those of screen industry workers. We all know which lot is in a better place. But we also all know that in the domestic screen industry, particularly with digital content, the unscrupulous are taking advantage of screen workers.

First Union are taking up the cause of courier drivers as you can read about here. And it’s the guilds’ role to represent the interests of those in the screen industry.

DEGNZ along with the other guilds took part in the Film Industry Working Group to address our (DEGNZ’s) and the government’s concerns about both the Hobbit Law and the inability of screen industry workers to collectively bargain. In due course those recommendations should be made public. All the guilds worked in good faith on this and represented their memberships as they are expected to do. Guilds are after all essentially unions, although some officially are not, including us.

Until now, DEGNZ has not been a union, although it has been a question that the board has asked itself—Should DEGNZ unionise? In the last few months the board has looked into this carefully, and met with various parties to weigh up the pros and cons.

At a recent board meeting, the board unanimously voted “Yes” to unionisation. This coming Annual General Meeting the board of DEGNZ will propose to the membership for the Guild to unionise and ask for a vote on it.

In the lead up to the AGM we want to give the membership as much opportunity as possible to make their views known, ask questions and debate the merits of unionisation.

This is an important issue that we will ask all paid-up financial members to decide upon, so do let us know what you think. And please put the AGM, scheduled for Saturday 6 October at 10AM in Auckland, in your diary. We would like as many of you as possible to come and hear why the board supports this view, and to get behind whatever decision is made.

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director