10 Dec 2012

Tour guide sacked over movie comment

2:42 pm on 10 December 2012

A vice-president of Actors' Equity has been sacked as a Wellington tour guide for reportedly making a derogatory comment about the filming of The Hobbit movies.

But Todd Rippon said he made no such comment and that his prominent role within the union was behind his dismissal.

He said a staff member from Absolutely Positively Wellington Tourism claimed he said something derogatory about the movie while escorting a group of international journalists for the premiere of the first Hobbit movie.

Mr Rippon said that when he confronted his employer, Rover Tours Ltd, he was told he could not work for the company while a member of Actors' Equity.

Rover Tours owner Scott Courtney would not comment on what he called an employment matter.

Positively Wellington Tourism said it did not lay a formal complaint about Todd Rippon.

The agency said it routinely submits feedback on tours and last week that included a suggestion to Rover Tours Ltd that it might want to look at some of the wording used.

The agency said it is not interested in the union membership of tour staff.


An employment lawyer says it is illegal to sack someone because they are a union member.

Andrew Scott-Howman told Morning Report the Employment Relations Act makes it clear it is illegal to discriminate against union members and workers can make a personal grievance complaint if this happens.

Labour is disturbed by the sacking. Industrial relations spokesperson Darien Fenton said it would be wrong if Mr Rippon's job loss was connected to his union membership.

Green Party industrial spokesperson Denise Roche said the Government has created a climate of fear around the Hobbit and sent a signal to employers that they can get away with treating union members poorly.