Union deals are 'threat to film jobs'
Director claims he gets paid less than electricians working on set
Restrictive practices are threatening to kill off the multi-million-euro Irish film industry. One prominent director has claimed that electricians working in the film business are earning more than he does, with some pocketing €4,000 a week.
Under a deal brokered by Screen Productions Ireland and Siptu, film makers are obliged to hire four standbys for tasks such as painting and electrical work.
The deal also allows electricians, carpenters and other building workers to claim for up to 130 hours' work for each week on set -- which is damaging the capacity of the industry to compete with European rivals.
"Electricians and other tradesmen are earning more than €4,000 a week. They're earning more than directors with 35 years' experience or actors or even the Taoiseach for that matter,'' says Fine Gael senator Fidelma Healy-Eames.
"Increasingly outside investors are saying that if a film needs an Irish atmosphere they should shoot it in Derry not Galway -- it has all the atmosphere and none of the costs," said Galway-based Ms Healy-Eames.
The senator's claims were confirmed by Ralph Christians, the chief executive of the well-known Galway film company Magma.
Speaking from Cannes, the film maker said: "It is a very hot issue but many people in the industry will not talk because they are afraid they will go on a blacklist.
"We have so many difficulties with the unions who come with the big hours and with people that we don't need.
"Magma is a company that is in Galway for the long haul and we would like to build relationships with local contractors -- but under the deal with the unions we're not allowed to chose who we hire. The unions tell me who I get. They send me people from Dublin to Galway and then I have to put them up in the hotel as well."
He says restrictive practices and high costs are seriously damaging investment in the Irish film industry.
"We are here 15 years in Galway and unlike RTE who cannot even sell films to the Faeroes we sell films through-out Europe and put Ireland on the map and bring in the money from abroad. High labour costs are now keeping foreign films away."
No one from Siptu's film branch was available for comment.