Actors back union out of self-interest

I agree with Peter Jackson that the Aussie film union is a “bully boy”.  And I find the actors supporting a boycott of the Hobbit highly self-interested.

For one, we know that having the unionisation of the workforce will lead to fewer movies, and the exclusion of potential “actors” who would work for lower wages – but can now not get a job.

Given this though you might say, how are the wealthy actors being self-interested?  After all, these minimum conditions have nothing to do with them!  However, this is just not true.

Since we know that unionisation limits the potential pool of actors, and that the acting skill requires “learning by doing“, we can say that this type of unionisation limits competition for actors roles – and so will push up the wage these actors can demand.

How can we say that labour in the NZ film industry is being exploited?  These people are willing to work for the current wage – and there is an industry here willing to hire them.  The fact that some of the workers want to exclude other workers from the industry to drive up their own wages is abhorrent – and I don’t understand why these big name actors believe they are taking the moral high ground when they are simply acting in their own self-interest

2 replies
  1. rauparaha
    rauparaha says:

    I doubt it’s because they are wholly self-interested: I’m sure they think they’re doing it in the best interests of other actors. My hypothesis is that they don’t consider the interests of those who are not presently employed as actors because people have evolved to intuitively disregard the interests of those outside their own group. So they only weight the interests of actors presently involved in negotiations when making their decision and thus believe that the union is helping.

    It may also be that the producers are trying to bargain actors down to their reservation wage, which most people would intuitively regard as unfair and reject.

  2. Matt Nolan
    Matt Nolan says:


    Oww I agree 100% rauparaha. I just felt like only showing one side 😉

    Ultimately, I would say an industry like the film industry where there is likely to be a monopsony purchaser of labour is the right place for a union to exist. However, if a sufficient union hasn’t been formed by members (it sounds like the NZ union that “did” exist was pretty crap) then I take that as an indication that maybe this isn’t the right place for it.

    Also, if people decide to become actors with the knowledge that they will get paid a pittance that is their choice – these people do have an outside option that offers a fair wage after all 😉

    So overall, my person opinion is not as strong as the one I put in the post – but it is sometimes more fun to pretend to have a solid opinion.

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