NFU drama Men and Super Men is a barbed chronicle of a workplace where harmony is a distant dream. Intended as a how-not-to guide for ‘management bodies’, the film sees patronising factory supervisor Ferguson (actor Eddie Wright in fine form) trying to increase productivity by constantly changing systems. Meanwhile a trio on the factory floor (Paul Holmes, Peter McCauley and Close to Home’s Stephen Tozer) react with bullying and barely suppressed defiance. It was an open secret when the film was made that some of the characters were inspired by NFU staff.
In 2000 the Employment Relations Act was passed into law in New Zealand, replacing the Employment Contracts Act. The bill proved controversial: some suggested it placed unfair obligations on employers, while others claimed it restored much-needed rights to workers that had been undermined. This Assignment episode explores both angles. Among them, business owner John Holm argues that he shouldn’t be told how to treat his employees, while union leaders and Alliance Party MP Laila Harré all argue that without the bill, workers will continue to be exploited.
In Moynihan, secretary of the carpenters’ union Leo Moynihan (Ian Mune) — with orange mini and leather jacket — has to navigate the shark-infested waters of 70s industrial relations. The first NZ-Australia co-production (with ABC) was devised by union organiser Earle Spencer and Jane Galletly (a rare credit in the then-male dominated industry). It was the first series made by TV One’s drama department; it won viewers as well as Feltex awards for best drama and Mune’s performance. The changing face of Wellington, including an under-construction Beehive, features.
Ian Mune is Leo Moynihan, secretary of the carpenters’ union, who — with orange mini and leather jacket — has to navigate the shark-infested waters of 70s industrial relations. In this episode, earthquake regulations, a shifty minister and stand-over tactics from worksite agitators, count amongst Moynihan’s workplace problems. At home he has to introduce lecturer girlfriend Sarah to his young son. The NZ-Australia co-production (with ABC) was the first drama series made by TV One’s drama department. It won Feltex awards for best drama and Mune’s performance.
This 2006 documentary is a portrait of one of New Zealand politics' most contradictory figures: unionist Ken Douglas. At the time of filming Douglas occupied numerous board positions (eg Air New Zealand, the NZ Rugby Football Union), but early on he was a truckie and Marxist. Rob Muldoon branded him 'Red Ken'. For 15 years until 1999 he led the Council of Trade Unions. Directed by Monique Oomen for Top Shelf Productions, the film is framed around interviews with Douglas and his colleagues, and asks whether he is a turncoat or a strategic realist moving with the times.
Six days out from the 1984 snap election, PM Sir Robert Muldoon and Leader of the Opposition David Lange face off across a table in a TVNZ leaders’ debate chaired by Ian Johnstone. A tired Muldoon, on the back foot since calling the election two weeks earlier, attempts to claim the high ground of experience in office and on the international stage; but he is no match for Lange’s deftness and gravitas — his parting shot of "I love you, Mr Lange" is one of the more remarkable moments in NZ political history.
Expat Kiwi Rewi Alley became one of the best known foreigners in 20th Century China and advocate for the Communist Revolution. When China was under siege from Japan in the late 1930s, Alley instigated an industrial co-op movement he termed ‘gung ho' (work together). Its success led to the phrase entering the global idiom. For this documentary a Geoff Steven-led crew travelled 15,000km in China in 1979, filming Alley as he gave his account of an engrossing, complex life story. Co-writer Geoff Chapple later wrote a biography of Alley.
Emerging in the late 80s as a genre-bending live act, Hallelujah Picassos blended indie rock, ska, hardcore punk and hip-hop. They originated in Auckland, where an industrial gig in a cafe led a barista to introduce himself to the guitarist. The combination of Roland Rorschach and Peter McLennan was soon coupled with Bobbylon and Johnnie Pain. They released two studio albums, Hateman in Love and Drinking with Judas, then, after major membership changes, called it quits in 1996. The Picassos reunited in 2011, releasing a compilation of hits, and followed it up a year later with covers album Picasso Core Jukebox.
The darkly arresting imagery of this Fanatics video — featuring leather clad models marching in robotic unison — was almost not to be, according to director Mark Albiston. "The band said 'do what you want — but no models'. I said 'what if we put them in jars'? They said...'mmmm... ok'." This swift negotiation lead to an industrial setting (the generator room under Wellington Hospital), with an army of models being baptised, energised and commercialised. The song was later used as the opening theme for New Zealand's Next Top Model.
The video for Shihad’s 'Wait And See' has the band shot in sepia, and trapped in industrial landscapes. Caught in the confines of a factory, the band face tentacles growing out of the walls and a mystery typewriter that seems central to proceedings. Mimicking surveillance footage, the video is made up of fast cuts and shaky shots. The song features on their EP Blue Light Disco, and was later rerecorded for number one album The General Electric. In 2000 the clip won director Reuben Sutherland the first of two consecutive Best Music Video gongs, at the Coca-Cola NZ Music Awards.