Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance
|Full name||Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance|
|Key people||Christopher Warren, federal secretary|
|Office location||Redfern, New South Wales|
The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) (The Alliance) is the Australian trade union and professional organisation which covers the media, entertainment, sports and arts industries. Its 24,000 members include people working in TV, radio, theatre & film, cinemas, entertainment venues, recreation grounds, journalists, actors, dancers, sportspeople, cartoonists, photographers, orchestral & opera performers as well as people working in public relations, advertising, book publishing & website production; in fact everyone who works in the industries that inform or entertain Australians.
The Alliance was created in 1992 through the merging of the unions covering actors, journalists and entertainment industry employees:
- Actors Equity (AE)
- The Australian Journalists Association (AJA)
- The Australian Theatrical & Amusement Employees Association (ATAEA)
Since amalgamation, the Symphony Orchestra Musicians Association (SOMA) & the NSW Artworkers Union have joined the Alliance, a Professional Sports Branch has been created & the Screen Technicians Association of Australia (STAA) reconstituted itself under the Alliance banner. In recent years the Equity section added a New Zealand branch to the Alliance.
The Alliance is affiliated with the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), the International Federation of Actors and the International Federation of Journalists. It is a member of the Australian Copyright Council and is represented on all major training bodies catering for its members and State Labor Councils on behalf of its actors and other entertainment industry sections (excluding journalists) and in some states some sections are affiliated with the Australian Labor Party.
The Alliance is also a member of the International Freedom of Expression Exchange, a global network of more than 70 non-governmental organisations that monitors press freedom and free expression violations worldwide.
The union is headed by CEO Paul Murphy who was appointed to the role in 2015.
The Alliance is trustee of the Walkley Award for Excellence in Journalism annually divided into individual categories. There are awards for the best entrant in each category, as well as the winner of the "Press photographer of the year", "Journalism Leadership Award" and the "Gold Walkley".
A foundation for performer members, the Equity Foundation was established to run professional development programs and a new series of Equity Awards for "Lifetime Achievement" and "Ensemble Casts".
MEAA and The Hobbit production in New Zealand
In September 2010, Sir Peter Jackson claimed the Australian-based MEAA demanded that the New Zealand-based The Hobbit production company (Warner Bros. owned, 3 foot 7 Limited) enter into negotiations for a Union negotiated agreement covering all performers on the film, even though New Zealand law prohibits engaging in collective bargaining with any labour organisation representing independent contractors, such as film actors. Jackson refused and stated it would be unlawful under New Zealand's Commerce Act to engage with an Australian Union on these matters. The MEAA called for a worldwide boycott of the film due to his refusal to enter into an illegal union-negotiated agreement with the actors. New Zealand's Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Chris Finlayson confirmed that the Crown Law Office had advised that movie producers were prevented by the Commerce Act from entering into a union-negotiated agreement with independent contractors. He also said the MEAA needed to note that New Zealand employment law was different from Australia. The New Zealand Actor's Equity, an autonomous part of the MEAA, have since acknowledged the Commerce Act prevents a union-negotiated agreement with performers who are independent contractors, with subsequent law changes reinforcing such a status.
During a key period of the dispute, MEAA/Actors' Equity had no legal status in New Zealand as it had been struck off the Register of Incorporated Societies for failing to meet its statutory and legal requirements.
On 20 October 2010, up to 1500 film technicians marched from Weta's Miramar studios into central Wellington to picket an Actors' Equity meeting being held at St John's Hall. The technicians had tonight intended to protest outside a planned meeting by the Actors' Equity union, which was to discuss "new industry standards" as it seeks a collective agreement for actors. The actors cancelled the meeting, aborting the protest. Actor and filmmaker Luke Hawker says "A lot of actors are feeling misrepresented by a union that is putting our industry in jeopardy."
It was widely reported that the production of The Hobbit would be relocated away from New Zealand due to the actions of the Australian-based MEAA and the New Zealand Actor's Equity. Delays to shooting as the result of industrial action had already cost the studio millions of dollars. SPADA (The Screen Production and Development Association of New Zealand) chief Penelope Borland said "The boycott will be totally responsible if it goes offshore." It is a case ... of the union not understanding this was real that it could have gone offshore." These fears were found to be unfounded and the production commenced in New Zealand during March 2011.
On 26 October 2010, former Equity director, Simon Whipp, appeared on the New Zealand current affairs TV show Campbell Live and said "If we have known that production wouldn't meet with us we would not have gone down this track. But how would we have known that the production company would not agree to meet?" Whipp was also quoted as saying that he would feel no guilt if the Hobbit ended up being made elsewhere. Viewer polls on both TVNZ and TV3 revealed that 90% of the New Zealanders who responded believed that the entire situation was the fault of the union.
Emails released in December 2010 by way of the Official Information Act showed that Jackson told the Government he did not believe an international actors' boycott would force The Hobbit overseas. The message, sent to the office of Economic Development Minister Gerry Brownlee on 18 October, contrasts comments the film-maker made earlier in the month. A full list of the e-mails was released in February 2013 by the Ombudsman, at the request of Radio New Zealand and the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, despite resistance on the grounds of commercial sensitivity from the New Zealand Government and Wingnut Films.
- "3foot7 Ltd".
- "Statement regarding The Hobbit and claims by MEAA". Peter Jackson. 27 September 2010.
- Harper, Paul (1 October 2010). "Jackson: Fees to my actors 'fair', 'generous'". NZ Herald.
- "Govt shouldn't take sides on Hobbit - CTU". NZ Herald. 30 September 2010.
- "SPADA on Hobbit Battle" (Press release). SPADA. 28 September 2010.
- Wade, Amelia (21 October 2010). "Filming of The Hobbit moving overseas". NZ Herald.
- Donnell, Hayden (21 October 2010). "NZ actors 'feeling misrepresented' by union". NZ Herald.
- Harper, Paul (21 October 2010). "Actors' Equity meeting in Auckland cancelled". NZ Herald.
- Cheng, Derek (26 October 2010). "No decision yet in Hobbit talks - Key". NZ Herald.
- Cheng, Derek (21 December 2010). "Sir Peter: Actors no threat to Hobbit". NZ Herald.
- Ombudsman Decision In Hobbit Case Feb 2013 - Full Text