The Workplace Relations Minister says it’s “imperative” Weta Digital carries out an independent investigation after allegations of widespread misconduct by staff.
More than 40 current and former Weta Digital workers have contacted 1 NEWS alleging bullying, harassment and a toxic culture at the Wellington-based visual effects company.
Allegations include incidents of harassment and bullying being ignored or mishandled by management, and porn mailing lists hosted on the company intranet, which are said to have existed for at least 13 years.
One former staffer told 1 NEWS today securing a job at Weta Digital had been “a dream come true”, but they compared the culture to an “alcoholic frat house” where people regularly watched porn at work.
“I personally found it disturbing to sit 70 hours a week in rooms with people watching porn. Not sure how any of the female technical directors endured it.
“When I talked about this to my lead he told me to, 'Go f*** yourself.'"
Current staff, and those who’ve left within the last three years, disputed Weta Digital’s claims the company had changed and complaints “do not reflect the Weta Digital of today”.
Workplace Relations Minister Andrew Little says the company needs to take action.
“It's imperative they put in place an independent investigation - not one of their managers, not somebody closely associated with the company but somebody from the outside who can talk to those raising the issues, talk to management and make some clear findings about what needs to happen next.”
He says the nature of the complaints and the number of allegations is concerning.
“From the complaints that have been aired, there seems to be a real question. Weta needs to deal with it, and if there is a culture change that is needed, they need to find the means and the wherewithal to change their workplace culture so people feel safe and secure in it.”
He says as minister he wants to make sure the processes we have in place to deal with workplace issues is “up for it” and is keen to explore options so that the people who’ve raised concerns “can get some sense of justice and accountability".
The Prime Minister and National Party leader Judith Collins also weighed in.
Jacinda Ardern called the claims “disturbing”, and Judith Collins said the allegations were “totally unacceptable in any workplace”.
Aotearoa Tech Union spokesperson Cordy Black says she’s “horrified” by the claims coming out of Weta Digital and that there can be a culture of secrecy in the tech industry. She’s calling for the company to be transparent about any measures it takes to improve the culture.
“Any organisation that wants to be large and wants to contribute to society, and really take part in shaping society is going to have to be accountable.”
She says sexism and harassment isn’t a widespread problem in the tech sector in New Zealand in general, but US-based post-production executive Katie Hinsen says it is a problem in film - both in NZ and the US.
“It's disappointing to hear, but that sort of stuff is something that is part of the experience of a lot of people in our industry who are women, who are non-binary, who are non-Pākehā.
“A lot of that aligns with some of my experiences at facilities that are very high-profile and working on very high-profile things. The higher the stakes, the higher the pressure and that often brings in that kind of environment.”
In February, the NZ Herald revealed Weta Digital received nearly $110 million dollars from production companies who'd received Government funding.
Ardern told 1 NEWS today the rebate scheme provides a “really crucial” way of incentivising international production.
“But alongside that, we have a reputation as a nation to maintain, and I'd like to see that reflected in the way all workplaces operate,” she said.
A new research report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment shows over 10 per cent of Kiwis report workplace bullying each year, higher than most other developed countries.
Employment relations policy manager Tracy Mears says current data show women, ethnic minorities and youth are much more likely to report incidents of bullying, and the Government wants to gather more data on workplace bullying and harassment in New Zealand.
“It is the first time the Government’s taken an in-depth look at bullying and harassment and we’re really focussed on the regulatory systems and how to improve those.”
She’s encouraging Kiwis to submit their experiences with workplace bullying and harassment to MBIE by the end of March 2021.
Do you have more information about this story? Contact our reporter Kristin Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org