I tried to clear up the background on The Hobbit labor dispute last week, but the short answer is that a coalition of unions claimed the producers weren’t negotiating with them and declared a blacklist. Peter Jackson’s people were so angry that they actually organized a protest against the unions, at which 1000 people showed up. The union blacklist has since been lifted. Whether The Hobbit will still be shot there is being decided this week, with Warner reps there as we speak.
Suffice to say, the only thing that New Zealanders hate more than feeling bullied by Australia is the idea that the rest of the world considers them an irrelevant backwater, and both seem to be at stake here. Here’s some of what Jackson had to say:
“The concept that people need to understand is that lifting the blacklist doesn’t solve the problem. It’s a question of confidence in our industrial relations, and the damage was done within a week of the blacklist of going on. They [the studio] are frankly worried, because the actors [who they say were used as a pawn by an Australian union] brought a completely frivolous action down on the studio. Now if they’ve done that once, what happens in a year’s time when Warner Bros has spent 150 mil and the actors decide to have a bit of fun again? There’s no confidence, that’s the issue. Warner’s are coming down next week [today] and we’ve got to fight like hell–“
Interviewer: “The prime minister’s coming down.”
Jackson: “He should come down. The studio are coming down on monday, and I’m racking my brain to try to think of how to give them the confidence that they need.”
He sure does seem mad. Sheep-shearin’ mad, as my friends from New Zealand would say. Anyway, here’s to hoping the unions and Jackson can finally come to an agreement and bury the sheep shear once and for all. As every Kiwi knows, there’s more than one way to shear a sheep.