The Hobbit union witch hunt

In the next issue of The Spark we’ll have an article about the Hobbit dispute. In the meantime, here are some comments from The Spark and Workers Party discussion groups over the past week.

Bring back slavery

The Hobbit union witch hunt continues apace, now with the threat of new anti worker laws. We used to get stick for launching big strikes, now we get it for threats that don’t get carried through.

I think Equity was too quick to hitch a ride on international union muscle, underestimating the opposition, insufficient preparation and also not considering the reaction of the tech workers and other workers who might be affected.

Hindsight is always easy and I don’t rush to blame Equity. On a smaller scale I’ve made similar hasty union moves and come to grief. The actors union had good intentions to redress a hell of a lot of injustice – injustice which still stands.

The thing is to learn from the episode and stand firm in the face of a storm of reaction. Right now, the pressing need is to regroup our forces, before the enemy divides and demoralises us even further.

My feeling is that a solidarity meeting is needed, to reaffirm the union principles at stake, to support those in the front line and to rally other workers to a class position. Such a meeting should be as wide as possible and from it should come a clear concise statement of the facts, to go to every worker in New Zealand.

Ideally the CTU would convene such a meeting; whether they have the political will I don’t know. The thing is, unionists and leftists need to act together, or further damage will be done to workers rights, living standards and dignity

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I reckon good on them [Actors Equity] for making a stand. I don’t know if they underestimated the strength of the enemy – they surely know the considerable strength of the movie bosses – maybe it was they underestimated the lengths these pricks would go to in order to avoid encoding a few conditions

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Lord Peter Jackson

It’s interesting how this whole affair has brought to the surface the petty, nasty and vindictive strain that exists in NZ society. Most of the time there is this idea that “kiwis” believe in certain things, like giving everyone a fair go and that we don’t doff the cap. But there is a quite strong strain within NZ society, including among people who talk like that, who are really nothing like it.

Every now and then something will act as the lightning rod that brings out this utterly nasty strain in NZ society and life. In 1981 it was the tour. The Hobbit stuff is the lightning rod now. And it also shows up that not inconsiderable element of ‘NZness’ that actually loves to doff the cap, that can’t be obsequious enough, that just loves to brown-nose.

Most of the time most people slag off those types, but something like this reveals that the brown-nosers in NZ society are actually quite numerous. These new rallies and their desire to appease/please the Warners bosses have got to be the biggest and most tawdry display of brown-nosing obsequiousness in a very long time. (Well, actually that awful march in Timaru in support of the Hubbards was another example, and that was only a few months ago.)

The performance of Jackson on TV last night – on both TV1 and TV3 – was absolutely disgusting. I’d never realised before quite what a petulant, nasty, vindictive, spoilt child he is. I actually expected to him to burst into tears and throw himself on the floor, banging his little fists up and down. Until recently this odious strand in NZ society was probably most publicly represented by Paul Henry. Now ‘Sir Peter’ (vomit) has picked up the crown. (As one of my co-workers said, “Why doesn’t he just fuck off back to his castle in the Wairarapa?”)

No-one here has any illusions in Helen Kelly, her politics and her career ambitions, but as said previously she has done an OK job in fronting up. At the same time, the CTU’s own nationalism, and the kind of Aussie-baiting done around stuff like the distribution workers’ lockout, has come back to bite them in the bum. I think the dangers of NZ nationalism is one of the important political points for us to make in our response to all this.

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One thing that has emerged from this is the blatant dishonesty of the bourgeois interests in all of this. My small hope is that people will start to open their eyes to that. Two examples of it (the dishonesty) emerged today. A couple of weeks ago Jackson and Walsh released a statement claiming that Warner Brothers was looking around at alternative countries to use for filming the Hobbit films. They even went so far as to name the countries: Scotland, various unspecified Eastern European countries, Ireland and Australia (or as Phillipa Boyens put it, “and get this!!! Australia!!!”)

But now WB has announced that they are looking overseas “for the first time”.

Secondly, WB have claimed that they didn’t know until yesterday that the “blacklist” had been withdrawn. But now a string of emails has emerged revealing that they’ve known for about 5 days.

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Ian Mune’s interview on Breakfast on Friday 22 October is well worth watching (ignore the vacuous Ken and Barbie interviewers): http://tvnz.co.nz/breakfast-news/breakfast-friday-october-22-3848618/video

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The interview Fran Walsh and Phillipa Boyens gave on National Radio at nine on October 22 was a disgusting display of misinformation, evasion, Aussie bashing, union bashing and lying such as I have not heard in ages. The tone was one of naked contempt for the Actors’ Equity members, totally lacking the veil of decency and moderation usually on display from employers.

It seemed that they felt that they had no need for pretense because they are sure everyone is on their side. After the union backed down, they simply declared that “the damage was done” and that, despite claiming that they would still fight to keep the movies in New Zealand, they were “past caring”. Of course that’s their prerogative. The capital is free to move and they are free to follow it to Poland, Australia, England or wherever it touches down.The rank and file actors on the other hand have no such option.

Keeping the Hobbit films in New Zealand is not, for us, a nationalist position; it’s defence of workers’ jobs, just as it would be in any other closure or redundancy situation. Hopefully the likes of the CTU and Socialist Worker will learn from this that NZ nationalism is a poisonous cancer that should be eradicated from the body politic rather than actively promoted and encouraged

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