Keith Locke on the Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill – in Committee stage



I think the fact that the Minister of Labour has had to put forward two amendments shows the problem of rushing this bill through in urgency. I sat on the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee for periods when it considered the employment relations legislation. I have been considering the amendments to the Employment Relations Act that have been with the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, and the amendments to the Holidays Act. As with every select committee we have made changes to the bills. One of the reasons why we do not just rush a bill through in urgency when it is available only at the beginning of debate is because otherwise a bill has to be available for 3 days so that people can have a look at it and get an idea of what might be wrong with it, then in the select committee MPs can work out what might be wrong with it, and they take public submissions—all of that is necessary to get good legislation. Even with this very short bill, Kate Wilkinson has come up with two amendments in the middle of this very rapid debate.

Hon Ruth Dyson

: Corrections.


: “Corrections”, she calls them. But no doubt there are more. What is this bill all about? There have been arguments about where the reason for it came from. The reality is that John Key and Kate Wilkinson said that they were open to talking with Warner Bros, Warner Bros wanted to talk to them, so why would they not listen to their views, and they then came forward with this bill. John Key said pretty explicitly that changing the legislation was part of the deal with Warner Bros. I do not disagree with Kate Wilkinson talking to anyone, including Warner Bros. She can talk to anyone in the world; that is her right. But when a bill comes before this Parliament and it is based on talks with only one party, that party being the Warner Bros, a multinational, and everyone else—employers, unionists, political parties, community people, and any others in New Zealand—is shut out of that discussion before the bill comes to the House, I am concerned. That is an abuse of democracy. If you talk only to a multinational and to no one else, and you do what that multinational wants, you are in effect—

The CHAIRPERSON (Lindsay Tisch)

: You are using “you”.


: One of the problems with the bill and the amendments in clause 4, which amends section 6(1) of the Employment Relations Act, is that they cover anyone working in any way in the film industry. It lists voice-over actors, stand-ins, etc. and, in amended section 6(1)(d)(ii), *”a person engaged in film production in any other capacity.” Later the bill talks about pre-production work, production work, and post-production work on or off the set etc. So we can see an example of someone who might be hired to work 8 hours straight for a normal day, every day, just sweeping the floors in a particular production studio. In every respect in terms of the Employment Relations Act and in terms of the court decision in the Bryson case that person and the work that they do—they do what they are told, they are unskilled, they sweep floors, it is regular hours—everything is covered as normal. Under this bill the company could say that if someone wants a job sweeping floors they have to be an independent contractor. If they do not accept that in the contract then they do not get a job there and the company will get someone else to sweep the floor. Is it not absurd that someone who is no way an independent contractor in substance under this bill can be defined as one and lose, effectively, all rights to defend conditions, and to work with others to improve their conditions—the normal things that unions do. That is where it becomes highly unjust. Once we put this exception for all film workers, including people sweeping the floor, in legislation like this, as Heather Roy, I think, said in her speech, why not generalise it to everyone. That means we get to a situation—particularly as the employers can determine who signs the contract and in what form, because they are the people who hand out the jobs—where we have an un-unionised workforce in New Zealand. Really, that is what this is all about: de-unionising labour in New Zealand. Is that in the national interest? I think that Nick Smith said it was all about the national interest. Is it in the national interest?