Unions cost NZ $500 million movie project

Posted by & filed under Misc, Politics.

So, the Hobbit, that long-awaited prequel to the Lord of the Rings movies could be moving away from NZ after all. And all because of actor’s union that issued a stop-work order to all its members.
Except the ban is no longer in place (or how NZ papers notice that there are no industrial issues) but movie could be moved to UK, or somewhere else still.
Because while for now unions backed down, there’s always a chance of “industrial issue” later. After all, should Warner Brothers get half-way done with $500 million project, it’d be so much more difficult to move it, even if all actors will go on strike and demand double the salary. Whoopie!

But that’s not the primary problem as I see it. Primary problem is exclusivity in union’s hold on movie-making.
Sure, unions are useful. They keep bosses in line, and prevent exploitation of the labor (bad hours, unfair pay, etc). Except from being a check-and-balances before, they slowly but surely grew into certain types of labor to the point of automatically becoming the gatekeepers. You want to work in certain trade, you have to join the union. No choice. Even if you don’t need it, or don’t agree with the policy.
I think that’s wrong.

Ideally, union should help preserve a balance between fair pay and performance. If company becomes unhappy with the cost of employees, they can always hire somebody else (which in turn would diminish union’s power), which means union has to moderate demand for salary and benefits, and try to be fair (or they get replaced). But what’s the point of moderating the demands, if everyone has to join the union anyways? There’s very little chance of stopping a strike at that point, short of company owners saying “Enough of this” and closing down the company.

Which is what almost happened here. Union demands raise, company on the verge of saying “enough of this” and canceling movie in this particular location.

Of course there will be even more articles about how evil corporation is trying to prevent unions from helping poor artists (from multiple countries, as unions synchronize boycotts). But the best proof of that would be to allow non-union actors to work on the movie. If studio can’t find any good actors on their own terms, unions will win.

*Update* The project stays but union’s ability to wreck chaos with movie probjects will be limited by new laws

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