NZGDA Submission on the Screen Workers Bill

On 6 August 2020 Parliament reported back on the Screen Workers Rights Bill. You can read their report here. The next step is for the Bill to have a Second Reading in the House before becoming law.

During the consultation on the Bill, the NZGDA participated in an industry webinar and held discussions with many members and our board and provided a written submission. NZGDA Chairperson Cass Gray and board member Stephen Knightly spoke to the Select Committee on 3 June 2020 and then provided written answers to further questions from the Select Committee.

Broadly, the NZGDA supports the intent of this Bill to improve contractor and freelance game developer’s rights. For background on the Bill see our previous post or the Parliament website.

Members’ Feedback

During consultation with our members we gathered the following feedback, which we considered for our written submission.

Defining Game Developers

The most common feedback we had from members was about how a “game developer” was defined and which roles should be included or not. Many people felt that because the proposed definition didn’t list their job title then they might not be included or that key roles in our industry were omitted.

Originally, after much (much) discussion we proposed several amendments to the definition to clearly include roles such as game programmers, producers, narrative designers and community managers. However, this created a long awkward definition that still wasn’t future proofed and could still be open to interpretation.

Ultimately we have recommended that the Government define game developers in the same way they define film and TV technicians and post-production technicians. Game developers are “individuals who work on, or contribute to, computer-generated game productions, and who do not fall within the description of any other occupational group in this schedule.” This is a broad, flexible definition. Composers, directors and script writers have their own occupational group categories. But 3D artists, animators, audio engineers moving from film and TV productions would switch to the game developer group when they start work on a game. This also helps all contractors working on a game together have the same rights and base conditions.

In our submission document you’ll see an alternative (not-recommended), longer definition that lists the various roles that make up game development.

Better Contracts with more Protections

The Bill adds mandatory terms that must go into individual contracts, which we support and think are good ideas. These include the requirement to have clear complaints processes about bullying, discrimination, or harassment; clarification that the Human Rights Act 1993 applies; clarification that the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 applies; including a duty of good faith on all parties to a contract.

These ensure that vulnerable contractors and freelancers, including students or recent graduates, have extra protections. Once the Bill becomes law, the NZGDA will have to help educate employers about how to include these processes in their contracts.

Collective Bargaining

The vast majority of questions we received concerned Part Three of the Bill about collective bargaining. Members had several questions: who is covered, who gets to negotiate on behalf of all gamedev contractors, is it compulsory, what if an employer doesn’t want to negotiate, what if not enough contractors agree to work together, how long could it take, what if people don’t know they are covered by a collective contract, is a collective contract an industry standard or just a baseline minimum, does it matter if no collective contract is negotiated?

While these are all valid questions, we received very few specific recommendations about how to change the Bill’s wording.  When we debated these details, the answer is that there is an appeals process. Ultimately the Employment Relations Authority, an independent Government agency, will help interpret and implement the law and act as a mediator if there are any disputes.