Two weeks after settling the last contract, negotiations are back on at Māori TV

in the news

The union representing workers at Māori TV says up to nineteen jobs will go in the latest round of restructures, from sound technicians to camera operators, just as the next round of collective employment agreement negotiations are scheduled to begin.  

The restructure comes as expensive outlays like the station’s new studio in East Tamaki put pressure on operational funding.

“[The restructure] is purely and simply an exercise to decrease cost,” said the workers’ representative, E tū coordinator Joe Gallagher.

“They can’t bring themselves to say it, but that’s the reality.”

Māori TV receives $35m from the government each year with $16m of that administered through Te Māngai Pāho, the agency responsible for commissioning radio, TV, and new media shows.

But Gallagher says this funding isn’t enough to sustain the workforce as is.

“When Georgina Te Heu Heu and that board made the decision to move [studios], that is when the dye was cast.”

Estimates on the cost of the move vary, but it is likely to be in the tens of millions. The move from the old Newmarket studio to the former Pumpkin Patch office in East Tamaki meant converting what was a partly a warehouse to office space and constructing a new broadcast studio from scratch.

Workers are now paying for the old board’s financial decisions, said Gallagher.

Contract negotiations are on – two weeks after settling the last contract

The restructure comes as union members prepare to initiate bargaining for a new collective employment agreement.

In August dozens of members walked off the job after the last round of bargaining broke down, only settling with Māori TV’s management two weeks ago.

But that round of bargaining dragged on so long the next round of bargaining is now due.

Unions initiate bargaining for a collective employment agreement anywhere between two and four months before the expiry of the existing agreement. The existing agreement – settled two weeks ago, but retrospectively applying to the previous 12-month period – expires at the end of this year.  

Workers receive back pay for that period.

But Gallagher says the upcoming round of bargaining may have to be deferred “until we have clarity on the state of their business”.

“We had meetings to talk about [management’s] proposal, and then heard a presentation by the CEO outlining the proposed structure and what he’s calling the “transformational” leadership… But there’s so much uncertainty we may have to defer”.

This adds to the uncertainty at the station, and the uncertainty across the Māori broadcasting sector.

Te Māngai Pāho cancels latest funding round

The funding shortfall in Māori broadcasting is also affecting Te Māngai Pāho with the commissioning agency abruptly cancelling their third and final funding round for the year.

Te Māngai Pāho made the decision after failing to properly and correctly budget, meaning there is a bottleneck on remaining funds.

This comes as Wellington’s Te Upoko O Te Ika, the first and “founding” Māori radio station, faces a possible closure.

Te Māngai Pāho is refusing to release up to $500,000 in funding until the station can confirm its frequency license with Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Te Āti Awa. Under their respective Treaty settlements, Ngāti Toa Rangatira and Te Āti Awa were given ownership rights to Te Upoko’s radio frequency, a move many predicted would destabilise the station.

“The implications on the Māori radio network if the plug is pulled on Te Upoko o Te Ika is - 'whose next,” said Pierre Lyndon, the language expert and former Te Karere newsreader and journalist.

“Māori TV and Te Māngai Pāho have not had a pay rise in ten years. The new Labour Government gave all the money to RNZ aka Radio Labour. RNZ got $30m on top of their normal funding.”

Te Upoko has been given a temporary funding lifeline, but only Budget 2019 can fix the structural issues facing the sector.

in the house

National MP Melissa Lee’s Broadcasting (New Zealand on Air and Te Māngai Pāho Reporting Requirements) Amendment Bill will go to first reading by year’s end. The Bill would force New Zealand On Air and Te Māngai Pāho (TMP) to publish quarterly reports containing ratings information for each project they fund. New Zealand On Air already publishes ratings information for its top rating shows  – accessible here – and ratings for other shows are available on request. TMP does not always purchase ratings information, and so the Bill would create an additional cost (ratings information is purchased from private providers like Neilsen). The Bill is unlikely to pass, but if it does the quarterly reports could be used to argue TMP’s low rating shows do not provide value for money.  

Ngāpuhi is no closer to mandating a representative organisation to negotiate its historic Treaty settlement as the Crown organises a third set of consultation hui. So far hui have taken place across New Zealand and Australia and the deadline for submissions has been pushed back to October 23. This comes as opponents of Tūhoronuku, one of the competing mandate bodies, prepare to picket the Ngāpuhi rūnanga’s October meeting (Tūhoronuku want a seat the negotiating table for the rūnanga). This is the third picket in as many months.

Labour’s Tairawhiti electorate branch met in Gisborne last night with members from as far away as Te Araroa on the East Cape travelling to hear from local MP Meka Whaitiri.  The Ikaroa-Rāwhiti MP fronted the members giving her version of the events that led the Prime Minister to strip her of her ministerial portfolios. The members committed to supporting their local MP, adding to the staunch support from Labour’s Māori caucus. This morning the Herald carried the leaked report into the incident on its front page. On Tuesday the Speaker granted National’s request for an urgent debate into Meka Whaitiri’s alleged conduct and demotion. For the best roundup read Newsroom editor Tim Murphy’s piece.

selected funding rounds

Commemorative funds

  • Te Pū Harakeke Investment, Te Puni Kōkiri (TPK). Te Pū Harakeke provides support to deliver events and projects in local communities. There are three funding streams: the Matariki fund supports events celebrating the Māori new year; the Māra Kai fund supports community garden projects; and the sponsorship fund provides one-off financial assistance for community events or activities contributing to Māori development. Status: open.

  • Te Pūtake o Te Riri, TPK. This fund supports whānau, hapū and iwi to initiate, promote and deliver activities and events that commemorate the New Zealand wars. The fund is intended to work as a contribution to events and is not intended to cover the full cost. Status: open.

  • Commemorating Waitangi Day Fund, Ministry for Culture and Heritage. This fund supports events commemorating the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and promoting nation and community building. The fund does not support the full-cost of events. Status: open.