Tuesday, 12 April 2011

helen kelly on the hobbit dispute

if you haven't read it yet, i strongly recommend that you read helen kelly's account of the hobbit dispute, which is detailed and well-referenced. one advantage of the internet is that traditional media can be bypassed, there are no word limits & the facts can be placed on the table.

she includes a part of the transcript of the radio nz interview, which i remember listening to in outrage as it was happening. peter jackson and his "camp" have been responsible for a huge attack on workers rights and got another massive handout out from nz taxpayers on top of that. i'm not sure how these people sleep at night, but i guess an additional $30 million would help quite a bit.

the whole saga included not only an attack on unions, but also some very misogynistic attacks on women. ms kelly leaves out this aspect of the situation as the story she tells is not a personal one. not only her but robyn malcolm and jennifer ward-lealand. this nastiness was all over the internet, and involved some pretty nasty personal correspondence as well. it was not enough for some to simply to disagree with their position but to attack these women for being women.

i'll finish with an excerpt from ms kelly's conclusion, but please do take the time to read the whole thing:

Basically the story runs like this – and I am simplifying it. Work is a benefit, business is the benefactor and workers are merely the beneficiaries. Workers should be grateful for a job; a job is a privilege; employers should be lauded for the contribution they make to growing economic wealth. This narrative not only devalues the contribution of labour and fails to recognise the exchange of labour for wages that is taking place, but it also provides the justification for the removal of work rights, insufficient pay rates, government subsidies to business and the like. It paints anyone who joins or seeks to organise a union as disloyal, a wrecker or an ingrate, throwing charity back in the face of the giver.

It paints the union as an outsider, an interferer in a relationship based on charity. The employer is to be revered – deference is the name of the game. Employers have bought into this narrative and you hear it regularly in the commentary of their advocacy groups. It is also used here and internationally to justify unsatisfactory and unfair trade arrangement, environmental degradation etc. It is being resisted but is overpowering in many situations. It is similar to the so-called ‘trickle down’ approach – where, if everything is done to make business profitable, the benefits will flow down to the deserving poor. We saw that in the 1990s – but the benefits only trickled up.

The Hobbit dispute is simply an example Actors were portrayed as ungrateful, biting the hand that feeds them, contributing nothing compared to the great Warners that were donating 2000 jobs to the economy. The beneficiaries were ungrateful. No discussion on rights was possible. Absolute deference was to be shown to business and this employer regardless of any other possible approach (e.g. that they should be expected to negotiate with performers here, as they do all over the world). The union was demonised and a change to employment law, at the request of Warners, was New Zealand’s way of apologising for some of our citizens’ bad behaviour.

A second example is Pike River ¬ a mine that, after only 1 year in operation, exploded late last year killing 29 miners. Immediately the narrative began to protect the company. The company CEO was grief stricken – as you would be. The media wanted grief not accountability. The families were not going to share their grief with the nation in those immediate days after the blast. Shocked and desperate for a rescue that was never going to happen, they mainly stayed out of the limelight. So the media focussed on the CEO. Pike River was painted as the company that saved the Coast (the West Coast of NZ where it operated is a mining area and the mine, being new, had provided new employment). It had gone in there and provided jobs and the biggest hope was that it would reopen. NZ media asked nothing of the company in those first few weeks. Some cheeky Aussie journalists flew here and asked some hard questions of the company – and were demonised for being insensitive intruders. The mine owners were given prime place in a state run memorial service without family representation. Miners were depicted as war heroes that went to work every day facing danger but prepared to accept it as part of the necessity of mining. It was bizarre. The site was unionised, the delegate was killed. Unions were anxious, as were many others, about speaking out, expressing anger or asking questions in this climate. They were concerned about being painted as ungrateful for the benefits bestowed by this company on the economy.


Story of O said...

Oh cry us a river....Kellys not snaking her way out of her stupidity over the Hobbit that easy.

stargazer said...

the only stupidity i see here is your comment. if there's something in her piece you dispute, how about you tell us why with the supporting evidence. otherwise please spare us from your mindless cheapshots.

Carol said...

A really significant and well written piece from Helen Kelly, strongly supported with actual evidence. She certainly shows her extensive capabilities here, and in her calmness under fire from some of the vicious misinformation and smears that came from the government-supported Team Jackson - and yes, there was a significant misogynistic element in it from some of the anti-union people.

And still the mainstream news media ignores it, and hasn't resiled from the way they supported the liees and distortions from the Jackson-Government-Warners camp.