Tag Archive for: union

View from the Top banner

The current fight to protect employee jobs going on at TVNZ by union E tū highlights the importance of unions in the New Zealand screen industry, and the importance of the Screen Industry Workers Act (SIWA) for screen contractors, who until SIWA came along in December 2023 had essentially no protections.

TVNZ is one of the few screen businesses to have a significant number of employees. Those employees have the protections of the Employment Relations Act. Screen contractors now have the protections of SIWA.

The employees at TVNZ who are journalists and media workers and members of E tū have a collective agreement.

We at DEGANZ together with the Writers Guild of New Zealand, Equity New Zealand and some other guilds, are currently seeking to put a collective agreement in place with the Screen Production and Development Association (SPADA).

With collective agreements in place, we will have negotiated minimum pay rates and terms and conditions for screen contractors that will provide some certainty for us all.

And with collective agreements, we will be able to fight much more effectively for our members when those negotiated agreements aren’t adhered to.

If you have been following the developments at TVNZ you are most likely aware that E tū is going to file a claim with the Employment Relations Authority against TVNZ. It’s the union’s view that the company did not follow its consultation requirements, as guaranteed for workers in their collective agreement.

The Employment Relations Authority is a Tribunal established under the Employment Relations Act. Members of the Authority help to resolve employment relationship problems.

Under SIWA, the Employment Relations Authority will also help to resolve contractor relationship problems, should a screen guild seek to file a claim against a producer or production company on behalf of one or more contractors who are members.

The employees at TVNZ have for decades helped create the news, current affairs shows, and other programmes much loved by New Zealand audiences. Following the news of yesterday, Sunday, and the Midday and Tonight Bulletins are gone, and Fair Go significantly reduced, with about 70 job losses.  Over at Warner Bros. Discovery, Newshub staff found out that just under 300 jobs will go there.

We all know that it’s not just news and current affairs programmes that will be affected.

SPADA in a press release yesterday that you can read here, estimates that up to $50 million is coming out of our sector and that there is uncertainty around big popular shows like Shortland Street, Celebrity Treasure Island, The Traitors NZ, Married at First Sight NZ, food shows, home shows, and more.

If ever there was a time for every screen worker in New Zealand to come together as members of their guilds and for us to negotiate collective agreements, it’s right now.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

 

View from the Top banner

I went to a Screen Industry Guild of Aotearoa New Zealand (SIGANZ) membership drive event last night. And this morning I read a blog post out of the US about the effort to establish an independent producers union.

SIGANZ, like DEGANZ and other membership organisations that work to represent their members’ interests, and the efforts that the producers in the US are making to establish a union to represent their potential members’ interests, are faced with the same issues—the incredible apathy of many of the people they are seeking to represent.

SIGANZ has a membership of about 6 – 700 of the possible 5 – 10,000 below-the-line people in the NZ screen industry who could be a member of that guild. We have just over three hundred members of the possible 1,000 – 1,500 working directors and editors in New Zealand.

In the US article, many reasons were given for why they weren’t getting the support from the producers they needed to establish a truly representative organisation. One paragraph from that blog stood out:

“There was also a large group of producers who were sceptical of our efforts and whether or not being involved would be detrimental to their relationships with financiers and studios. Then there was another type of producer who couldn’t see the bigger picture. For example, in one town hall, I had a very prominent producer ask, “But how does this benefit me?” While I understand this question, I explained that it’s not just about one producer. The work we were doing is also about the next generation and ensuring that they aren’t exploited in the same ways we have been. It’s about preserving the role of the producer in the future.”

You could substitute the word ‘producer’ with the word ‘director,’ ‘editor,’ or ‘techo,’ and it would have the same relevance for us.

Having worked in this job for close to seven years now, I’ve been faced with the same difficulty those seeking to set up the producers union in the US faced—getting directors and editors who aren’t members to understand that the work we do is more than just about the immediate benefit to the individual, i.e., it’s also about the bigger picture work.

I have multiple big-picture meetings each week with some or all of the EDs and GMs of the other guilds and associations, together with funding bodies, government ministries, and others involved in whatever discussion we are having. Recent examples are the Reform of Vocational Education, The NZ Screen Sector Investment Review, the Screen Industry Workers Act (SIWA), and the proposed merger of RNZ and TVNZ. In the past, it’s been the Copyright Act Review, the NZFC CEO conflict of interest situation around David Strong, and input into the NZ On Air and NZFC strategies. There are others. Some of those went on for years.

The Film Industry Working Group meetings that DEGANZ and many of the other screen industry bodies participated in took place regularly over four long years and resulted in SIWA. All of these things are somewhat abstract when it comes to answering the individual question: How does this benefit me?

A lot of the work that DEGANZ and all the other NZ guilds and associations do is not just about the ‘you’. It’s about the ‘you’ and who comes after ‘you’. Thankfully we all have members and board members who understand this. There just aren’t enough of them. But there could be.

Last night SIGANZ took a different tack by serving up a partnership programme that helps to answer the “what’s the benefit for me” question for them—something they are well positioned to do as representatives of the below-the-line Art Department where the business partner they’ve found could have a significant bottom-line benefit. Not so easy for others of us with small memberships and little buying power.

Every guild and association in New Zealand could significantly grow its membership if a lot of those non-members who could afford it joined the guild or association that best represents them, understanding that we work on their behalf as well as on behalf of future generations of screen workers.

This is a call out for you to encourage those you know to join a guild, whether it’s DEGANZ, SIGANZ, NZWG, Equity NZ, SMSG, VFXPNZ, MDGNZ, or SPADA. We will be more representative, financially independent, and better able to do the work we do now and into the future. There is a significant benefit in that for us all.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director

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

DEGNZ President Howard Taylor signs off.

I am retiring from my role as president of the DEGNZ. Going, but not quite gone. As required by the constitution, I will be continuing as a board member for another year to ensure a smooth transition.

I regard being on the Board of the Guild an honour and a privilege. It is also a lot of work – as my fellow board members will attest. However, I believe that giving back in this way to the industry that has given me such a wonderful career is the least we can do.

I have been on the Board since we set the Guild up 25 years ago and I have been president for five years. I turned the role down twice because I felt, rightly or wrongly, that while I had spent a lifetime in the world of television, I was not familiar enough with the film world. That changed when, having written a feature film screenplay, I took part in a year-long course in international co-production of features. The new-found knowledge gave me the confidence to finally say yes to the role of president.

I am a great believer in Guilds and the role they play in the industry. The lobbying we do on our members behalf is very often unseen. There is a tendency for government and industry bodies like the NZFC to listen to producers and either forget the creatives or assume that producers speak for everyone. The voice of the director (and editor) in the debates that arise is vital.

While it would be wonderful for us all to have the freedom implied by the fact that film is an artform, we are constrained by the pressures of the commercial world. Those pressures impact us directly as an erosion of conditions and fees. The Guild has a key role in protecting what we currently have and promoting improvements. This will be tested when we put on our Union hat and go into negotiation with SPADA to negotiate minimum rates and conditions as set out in the new Screen Industry Worker legislation.

The Guild’s role in providing education and skills training to members is important in an industry where most training is for beginners.

Directors live in silos. It’s many years since I was on another director’s set. Watching other directors work is a valuable learning experience and it’s great the DEGNZ can give directors (and editors) that opportunity.

What I value most is the sense of fraternity that Guild membership brings. We look after each other. Yes, we are competitors for jobs, but in my experience the willingness of directors and editors to lend a hand to their fellows trumps any sense of competition. Guild membership gives me a sense of connectedness to the screen industry that I have never found anywhere else.

The Guild has evolved hugely over the years, becoming a sophisticated organisation dealing with a plethora of active issues. I am proud of what the Guild has achieved and look forward to its robust and noisy future. Kia kaha.

Howard Taylor
(Ex.) President

The Screen Industry Workers Bill is back on the menu with the Government now wanting to to move it along. And that’s a good thing.

If there’s one issue that crops up more than any other at DEGNZ it’s individual contracts.

New Zealand moved away from collective bargaining with the changes to employment legislation that eroded a worker’s right to pre-agreed terms and conditions from the 70’s through to the 2000’s. Individual workers are left to negotiate their own remuneration and terms and conditions with the engagers (companies) if they become classed as contractors, which applies to a very high percentage of screen industry workers. This has been particularly bad for directors and editors, unless you are an in-demand person.

There are now generations of workers who have never had union representation, or benefitted from collectively negotiated agreements.

You, the individual director or editor, are required to negotiate your remuneration and the terms and conditions under which you work with the production company or broadcaster that has the resources in most cases to either engage a lawyer or have their own in-house legal counsel. This creates a playing field that’s ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous. Many of you sign the contracts you are given with little or no negotiating power, and it’s these contracts we often see when people become unhappy with how they are treated.

The Screen Industry Worker Bill is one approach, agreed to by all unions and associations in the screen industry, to provide minimum protection to screen workers. It should prevent outright exploitation and offer the opportunity to get fair terms and conditions in a collective manner. There will still be the opportunity to negotiate individually as there is now. There will be a floor below which no engager can go, but no ceiling except that beyond which the individual engager will not go. In other words, you can push up, but they can’t push down below the minimums.

At DEGNZ we have worked hard with all the other screen guilds and associations to get the Screen Industry Worker Bill in place. The three unions in the screen industry—us, the Writers Guild and Equity NZ, the actors guild—are working with the Council of Trade Unions to try and get the best legislation for screen workers we can. But the battle is still not won.

New legislation is tricky to get through Government. It gets changed, watered down, and other things get in the way, like the Fair Pay Agreements that Government and other non-screen industry unions are hot on at the moment.

While we continue to work on getting the Screen Industry Workers Bill passed, I’d like to ask each and every one of you to familiarise yourself with the Bill, because it’s for you. You can read the current draft here, which we are seeking improvements to. You can learn about the legislative process here. And most importantly, you can talk to others about it, because once it is in place and we negotiate a collective agreement, each one of you will have an opportunity to vote on whether you want the minimums we bring to you. And if you don’t, your vote can tell us to go back and try again as long as you are a member with rights to vote.

That’s democracy in action in a union.

 

Tui Ruwhiu
Executive Director