Dáil Éireann – Private Members’ Business – Film Industry Development

Two questions came up at the 6th of March 2012 Dail Eireann’s private members time, regarding the Irish Film Industry. Deputy Robert Troy raised the issue of the on-going talks between the craft unions and the producers which have been on-going for more than a year without any progress. Deputy Sandra McLellan asked if appropriate training and career development programmes are in place for film workers.

In relation to industrial relations the Ministers in his responses acknowledged that if we were to compare rates with those of the UK we are “not competitive” and unless we are competitive producers will not come to Ireland as recent experience have proven where producers have decided to go elsewhere.

© Tom Dowling

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Text as it appears on the Oireachtas website.

56.  Deputy Robert Troy  asked the Minister for Arts; Heritage and the Gaeltacht his views on the findings of the Creative Capital report on industrial relations in the audiovisual industry here; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12717/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan):  The Deputy will be aware that the development of the audiovisual industry, including industrial relations issues, was examined during the preparation of the Creative Capital report, Building Ireland’s Audiovisual Creative Economy, which was published in July 2011. An implementation committee is examining the advancement of its recommendations. It is chaired by my Department and includes representatives from the Departments of Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, Education and Skills, Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, and Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The Irish Film Board, Screen Producers Ireland and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland are also represented on it. I am expecting an internal report from it after Easter.

The Creative Capital report focuses on issues such as talent development, convergence, sectoral growth, education and the digital opportunities for Ireland, as well as reporting on industry leadership, State agency roles and innovation. It will provide a road map for the next few years and assist in enabling the domestic audiovisual content production sector to develop into an internationally traded sector for product and services over the five year period 2011 to 2015.

In the area of industrial relations I understand negotiations are ongoing between the relevant parties under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further on the matter at this juncture.

Deputy Robert Troy:  I thank the Minister for his reply. As he will be aware, I tabled a written parliamentary question on this a number of weeks ago and I was a little disappointed with his reply.

The Creative Capital report from the Department identifies the potential of the Irish film industry to grow at a rate of in excess of 30% in the next five years. It is a very important sector which both of us agree has considerable potential for job creation, but the ongoing limbo the talks between the craft unions and the producers are in is sending out a negative image internationally. Disney has stated publicly it is not prepared to return to Ireland until these practices have been resolved.

The talks between the craft unions and the producers have been on-going for more than a year, with the unions not making a single concession. The industry is in limbo because there has been an absence of an agreement for five to six years.

One of the most damaging aspects to the Irish film industry abroad is the 50:50 nomination system operated by the craft unions. It gives unions the right to choose 50% of a production crew. To the best of my knowledge, no other industry operates to such criteria.

Will the Minister press Screen Producers Ireland to omit the inclusion of the practice of 50:50 nomination from any new agreement? Given the paralysis in the industry, will he ensure that a new agreement will be finalised by both sides as soon as possible to provide clarity to the international market that Ireland is competitive? In light of the fact that it is on-going for so long, the Minister might consider intervening personally by seeking to meet the producers and craft unions separately and then trying to mediate between them to bring about a satisfactory conclusion.

It is an important industry where there is potential to grow jobs, but at present there is stalemate which is sending out a negative message to the international community. Disney, a renowned film production company, has vowed not to return to Ireland as long as this practice is in place. The Minister might clarify some of those points for me.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan:  I agree with Deputy Troy that we must be competitive in the film industry to attract film and television drama productions to Ireland. If one compares our costs with those of the UK, for example, we certainly are not competitive. We must look at it from a view of all inputs into the film industry. We must be competitive or else producers will not come to this country. We have had recent experience where, as Deputy Troy stated, they have decided to go elsewhere.

I understand discussions currently are at a sensitive stage with the Labour Relations Commission, the unions representing the various elements of the film industry and the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. While I do not want to get into those negotiations or comment on them, I would say that if we are to achieve the target of 10,000 working in the industry following the completion of the Creative Capital report, certainly we must be very competitive. That is why these negotiations are very important and it is very important that they would be concluded as soon as possible.

It would not be appropriate that I or any other Minister would become involved with the Labour Relations Commission. It is not something that would be welcome at this stage. The unions and Screen Producers Ireland are very much involved in talks currently and seem to be making progress.

Deputy Robert Troy:  This is about jobs, and jobs are being put at risk. The Minister’s hands-off approach is not appropriate in this instance. I appeal to him to mediate because it is important in that it involves jobs. The Minister’s Creative Capital report has clearly outlined the need for action.

Deputy Jimmy Deenihan:  I am sure Deputy Troy understands the principles of negotiation. The Labour Relations Commission will certainly be carrying that out. I am sure it would not respond favourably to interference from the Minister at this stage.

 As it appeared on the Oireachtas website

72.  Deputy Sandra McLellan  – asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the efforts he has made to protect the terms and conditions of employment in the Irish film industry for production and pre-production workers; if appropriate training and career development programmes are in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12486/12]

Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Jimmy Deenihan):  Primary responsibility for training within the Irish film industry is carried out by Screen Training Ireland (STI). STI is part-funded by the Irish Film Board and provides continuing training and career development opportunities for professionals in the independent film and television sector. It works with industry professionals, both locally and internationally, to identify, design and deliver training for Irish professionals. Training programmes are offered to practitioners and companies to enhance their expertise in Film, Television, Animation and Digital Media to allow for the continued development and expansion of the sector.

Statutory responsibility for the protection of the terms of employment for workers in all sectors in the State is a matter for my colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and I understand that there are a number of bodies under the auspices of his Department, such as the Right Commissioners Service of the Labour Relations Commission, that investigate grievances or disputes.

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