That Dáil Éireann shall take note of the Report of the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht entitled 'Development and Working Conditions in the Irish Film Industry’, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 12th July, 2018.
Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil as an deis labhairt ar an tuarascáil seo, tuarascáil a cuireadh le chéile sular tháinig mise i réim mar chathaoirleach ar an gcoiste seo. Tá obair an-mhaith déanta ag an gcoiste ag cur le chéile na tuairimí a cuireadh faoina bhráid agus a cuireadh leis na moltaí os ár comhair. Beimid ag déileáil leis na moltaí sin so it is those recommendations on developments and working conditions in the film industry report which the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht produced after a number of hearings last July. We submitted it for the lottery to be selected and thankfully it has been. The report discussed arises from a number of contacts made with other members of the committee. As I explained, I only came into the role of committee Chairman late last year. This report already existed. The committee members had a number of contacts following developments in the film production industry in Ireland. As well as highlighting the advances and great successes of Ireland's indigenous film industry this report discusses concerns raised by some witnesses which centred around working conditions, training and development, funding and trade union representation. Having considered the matters, it was given priority by the committee and a number of stakeholders were invited to make a written submission outlining their views on these matters. The committee heard how the creative film industry is one of Ireland's great strengths. Irish-made productions are enjoyed by audiences around the world and they enhance our reputation and provide employment. It is important that the long-term sustainability and development of the sector be enhanced and encouraged.
The cultural and economic value of independent production needs to be continually supported and extended by Government funding incentives such as tax incentives and other funding schemes that are vital for the sustainability of the industry. Such Government commitment will ensure Ireland's ability to compete against other jurisdictions in getting productions to locate here and to be seen as a territory with strong skills bases, suitable infrastructure and competitive financial incentives. It cannot be a blank cheque. There are responsibilities to avail of tax breaks, which is tax forgone from the public moneys.
The committee invited five stakeholders from the industry to come before it and to discuss the topics in question. The content of these discussions and further written submissions received by the committee form the main content of this report. I encourage people to look at the full report. They will see what framed the discussion. The report deals with the main concerns expressed during the period of consultation between the committee and the stakeholders. The concerns related primarily to the following four areas: working conditions, training and development, funding, and trade union recognition.
Continuity of employment was raised as an ongoing issue whereby workers are generally employed from production to production and generally do not work on more than one production at the same time. This is especially the case for those working on section 481 productions for which the mother production company must set up a special production company for newly funded production, referred to as special purpose vehicles, SPVs. The committee acknowledges the nature of the industry in this regard where film studios and production companies in Ireland and all across the EU, do not generally employ creative and technical talent on a full-time long-term basis and only retain small full-time long-term teams to support a production company or studio in the long run between productions. That means long periods of lay-offs or unemployment for workers in the industry.
Some instances were highlighted where workers were being engaged as trainees over different productions from year to year and that such training was not leading to offers of full-time employment as new productions came along. The success of the section 481 funding incentive was leading to substantial increased activity in the industry and part of the scheme insisted on the provision of training on all productions supported by it. However, the committee was asked how such training could better reflect the overall needs of the industry and be better monitored and recorded.
With regard to funding, the section 481 tax incentive was strongly welcomed, in spite of some of the issues it raised. However, the importance of restored and guaranteed funding for these bodies and organisations which play a leading role in guaranteeing the future of the sector and in ensuring the long-term sustainability and development of the sector is strongly underlined in the report. The withdrawal and reduction of funding threatens Ireland's ability to compete against other jurisdictions in getting productions to locate here and this undoubtedly raises challenges and concerns for Ireland's strong reputation as a territory with a strong skills base, a suitable infrastructure and competitive financial incentives.
With regard to trade union representation, during the discussions with the committee, some concerns were raised on workers' representation on unions and other representative bodies and these are reflected in the report. All of these issues and other topics related to the film industry in Ireland today are reflected in the committee's report and form the basis for the key recommendations.
The importance of the Government's section 481 financial incentive has contributed significantly to the success of the creative industry in Ireland and is crucial to the industry. However, the committee is very aware how it can lead to some problems for employees as outlined in the four areas I addressed. There was a question of whether employees are fully protected by legislation and negotiated collective agreements and whether these need to be strengthened. Concerns could perhaps be first addressed through collective bargaining agreements between employers and their representatives and the trade unions, supported by the dispute resolution procedures of the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.
I will outine the other recommendations made. Section 481 is a key and central component within the Irish film industry. This fact is accepted by the vast majority of the industry's stakeholders. Section 481 should remain central to the industry in the future. Secondly, it is the view of the committee that the Government should seek to make working arrangements more secure. Film companies should comply with all labour and other laws in relation to employment and self-employment. The committee calls on the Government to develop plans that ensure gaps in work are counted towards employment rights and redundancy. There were concerns with regard to working terms and conditions that can impact on workers, including income, redundancy and pension entitlements. Terms and conditions can also affect workers' ability to communicate real workplace difficulties as workers without permanent contracts must be constantly rehired.
The committee sought the reform of training in the sector to ensure all training has a recognised qualification, where possible, and a beginning and an end, and that trainees are not forced to repeat specific training. The committee proposed that there would be a wider geographical spread of training courses, the introduction of formal apprenticeships and additional finance to improve training and development.
In recommendation No. 4, the committee calls on the Irish Film Board to constitute the board's film forum, with an independent chair, to allow all stakeholders in the sector to meet and work together to develop mutually beneficial solutions for the industry.
Recommendation No. 5 is that an international comparative study be constituted to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the section 481 tax credit. The committee did not recommend the abolition of the credit, far from it, but its evolution to ensure certain foreign investment is not lost as a result of its current form. Attention must be focused on how section 481 can be improved to develop rich productive and sustainable indigenous film industry capacity.
Recommendation No. 6 is that workers within the craft grades of the industry should have representatives nominated to the Irish Film Board to feed their perspectives and needs into the industry's development. In recommendation No. 7, the committee called for collective bargaining rights for freelance workers.
In recommendation No. 8, the committee called for State support for actors, who lead a precarious existence, and sustainable pension structures for workers in the film industry. In recommendation No. 9, the committee sought further integration of the film industry on a North-South basis with the creation of formal North-South structures, development plans and investment.
In recommendation No. 10 the committee called on the trade unions and other representative organisations to work towards a mutually beneficial and respectful understanding. The final recommendation, No. 11, is that public funding and adherence to employment standards be linked.
The report and its recommendations highlight a number of specific issues which speak for themselves. I previously stated I was not the Chairman or a member of the committee at the time. Prior to taking on the role, however, I had a number of contacts with people who work in the film industry and since then I have had much contact with those in the industry. Some of the accusations levelled against the industry, including blacklisting and shorter working, must be fully investigated. The Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, is the obvious vehicle for doing so. The committee also suggested that the forum should address specific areas.
The film industry in Ireland employs a very small number of people. Overall, the number is estimated to be 17,000 but when one drills down the number employed full-time and throughout the year is fewer than 2,000. Some people are employed for six months and others are employed for three months. The industry as a whole is small but many people have an interest in it. There are probably 17,000 people, or perhaps more, with skills that are utilised in the industry over a period. They must be protected in every way possible to ensure they have rights as workers and that people can be self-employed if they wish but they must be properly self-employed rather than only in name. There are solutions to these issues but they require engagement. The parent companies or the small sub-companies that have been set up to avail of the tax incentive must understand the need to address the issues. We need to do more. We are in competition with other countries and do not want international film companies to bypass Ireland because we are not willing to iron out existing difficulties, some of which could be very easily addressed. Some changes have started to come through, even since the report was published.
If there are problems with the way Revenue is dealing with the film industry, we must address them but we must do so in a way that protects public moneys. Any tax incentive is tax forgone and public money. Where public money is invested, the recipients must be accountable to this institution and also the Revenue Commissioners. If the investment is designed to create jobs, then such jobs must be forthcoming. We must also look at whether the investment is developing the industry to a sustainable level so that at some stage in the future it will no longer be dependent on tax incentives. I recall a major debate about section 481 in 2003 when it was argued that the section was under threat and would be abolished. Thankfully, it was not abolished because it has sustained and enhanced the film industry. We must encourage more investment and training in order that we have an industry of which we are proud.
In the 1990s, SIPTU used to produce a book listing the various people who worked in the industry which could be given to film companies. Companies could see who was a carpenter or who could do creative, location or site work. It was a bible for the industry as a whole. The reintroduction of such a mechanism could be considered. We must address some of the accusations that have floated around in recent years and find a solution to them or they will continue. In the main, the recommendations stand. It is welcome that the industry has already begun to take steps to address some of them but to my knowledge others are still outstanding.