Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't kill Bilbo!

Here is something you don't see often—thousands of workers protesting AGAINST a union.

As many of you know the Lord of the Ring films were produced in New Zealand. I've even visited Hobbiton there, or at least the location where it was filmed. Peter Jackson, who produced the films, was working on production of the prequel, The Hobbit. But an Australian based union got involved and started demanding a world-wide union boycott on the film because Kiwi workers were being exploited by Jackson, who was only paying the actors $5,000 per week for their work.

Does this union represent the workers? Nope, it only has a handful of members in all of New Zealand. They supposedly only represent 70 people in the entire country but they are working to put thousands out of work. Worse yet the union is not even registered in New Zealand which would make negotiations between Jackson and the union legally impossible.

The tiny union that is causing the trouble was going to hold a meeting in Wellington when they heard that a protest march was going to be held against them. They canceled the meeting, tucked their tails between their legs and beat a hasty retreat. Of course they blamed the workers they are seeking to unemploy by claiming that they (the union) felt threatened by the anger of the workers.

It was only a handful of highly-paid actors who were involved in the dispute but numerous trade unions joined the boycott forbidding their members to work on the project. While the Screen Actors Guild has canceled their boycott other unions have not done so yet. Warner Brothers is meeting with Jackson to discuss moving the film outside New Zealand, destroying thousands of local jobs.

By the way, the workers protesting aren't being paid $5,000 per week, like the actors. Apparently the union wants a few highly paid and pampered actors to take precedence over thousands of average working people. It may be too late to save The Hobbit. It's a shame really, considering that New Zealand made a perfect Middle Earth.

The New York Times updates the story:
New Line, a division of Warner Brothers, said it had “been attempting to receive an unconditional retraction of the improper Do Not Work Orders for almost a month,” but that New Zealand Actors Equity and its umbrella group, the Australian Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance, “continued to demand, as a condition of the retractions, that we participate in union negotiations with the independent contractor performers, which negotiations are illegal in the opinion of the New Zealand Attorney General.”

The statement continued: “The actions of these unions have caused us substantial damage and disruption and forced us to consider other filming locations for the first time. Alternative locations are still being considered.”

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