Unions, Jackson In “Hobbit” Fight

A new problem arose for “The Hobbit” film over the weekend as seven unions (several UK ones, SAG and Australian union MEAA) told their members not to work on the planned production in New Zealand because producers “have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements” according to a joint statement reports The Sydney Morning Herals.

Peter Jackson himself quickly shot back with an official statement (read here) calling the order a “grab for power” by the MEAA and threatened to move the production to Eastern Europe, causing New Zealand to lose out on many millions in revenue.

Now the film’s production backers New Line, Warner Bros. Pictures and MGM have weighed in with support for Jackson, saying in a statement (read here) that “there cannot be any collective bargaining with MEAA on this New Zealand production, for to do so would expose the production to liability and sanctions under New Zealand law.”

The studios add that due to a lack of certainty about production proceeding without disruption, it’s their “general policy to avoid filming in locations where there is potential for work force uncertainty or other forms of instability”. They’re now “exploring all alternative options in order to protect our business interests”.

More as it develops.