Thursday, September 30, 2010

A combination of Hobbits

Film's backers told NZ law on their side against union, New Zealand Herald, 30 September 2010:

Yesterday, Mr Finlayson said in a letter to the studios - which was also copied to Sir Peter and Ward-Lealand - that legal advice from the Crown Law Office confirmed the Commerce Act prevented The Hobbit's producers "from entering into a union-negotiated agreement with performers who are independent contractors". Section 30 of the act, which deals with price fixing, "effectively prohibits" such arrangements, he said.
Combination Act of 1800 (UK):
No journeyman, workman or other person shall at any time after the passing of this Act make or enter into, or be concerned in the making of or entering into any such contract, covenant or agreement, in writing or not in writing ... and every ... workman ... who, after the passing of this Act, shall be guilty of any of the said offences, being thereof lawfully convicted, upon his own confession, or the oath or oaths of one or more credible witness or witnesses, before any two justices of the Peace ... within three calendar months next after the offence shall have been committed, shall, by order of such justices, be committed to and confined in the common gaol, within his or their jurisdiction, for any time not exceeding 3 calendar months, or at the discretion of such justices shall be committed to some House of Correction within the same jurisdiction, there to remain and to be kept to hard labour for any time not exceeding 2 calendar months.
And so at a stroke, by virtue of an arbitrary designation imposed by Jackson in an effort to shirk his responsibilities as an employer, labour relations are taken back two hundred years to the era when any effort by workers to improve their lot was an unlawful (seditious, even) conspiracy in restraint of trade. The only difference is that if they are successful in collectivising to press for their rights, instead of the actors being jailed or transported to Australia, Jackson's entire production is transported to Eastern Europe in search of lower costs and bigger tax breaks.

Frankly, if resurrecting the Combination Laws is the price of keeping him here, then I say let him go. He can leave his knighthood at the door, because clearly he doesn't deserve to keep it.