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FWICE and TV producers on warpath yet again, strike from 3 Oct

MUMBAI:  The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) and the TV producers seem to have gotten on the wrong foot once again. Just four months after managing to reach a consensus, the FWICE has once again called for an indefinite strike from 3 October, over a disagreement with the TV producers.

The members will go on a strike to demand a hike in their daily wages and improved working conditions.

In May this year, FWICE had threatened to go on a strike if the producers’ bodies failed to renew the memorandum of understanding (MoU) that had expired in February. But after reaching a consensus wherein the producers agreed to the wage hikes and renew the MoU, FWICE called off the strike.

The reason for the strike now is stated to be the long-pending delay in signing the MoU by the producers.

The FWICE has issued an ultimatum to the producers that if they do not sign the MoU by 2 October, all 22 affiliates will go on indefinite strike starting from 3 October.

FWICE general secretary Dilip Pithva told TelevisionPost.com, “The producers had earlier said that they would give the wage increment and will sign the MoU by 20 June. But, even by 20 Sept they have not signed it.”

In turn, the producers body states that they have not signed the MoU because there are some clauses that go against the Competition Commission of India.

Swastik Productions’ Rahul Tewary states, “The wage hike has been given, but some of the clauses in the MoU go against the Competition Commission of India. We attempted to resolve the issues but the FWICE was not open for discussion.”

Another producer on the condition of anonymity said, “Producers are wanting to sign the MoU, but there are many clauses in the contract that are not legal. Some clauses are debatable under CCI also.”

Among the issues highlighted by the FWICE are low wages, less hygienic working conditions, and the long working hours. FWICE states that the working hours should be eight hours while the workers end up working for over 12–14 hours and even after that do not get their wages on time.

After all efforts of mediation failed by both the parties, they resorted to legal proceedings. The Bombay HC has told FWICE that while they can go ahead with the strike, they cannot stop the shooting of TV shows and cannot create any nuisance or obstructions in the shooting within 150 metres of the set.

The court has said that the FWICE may choose not to cooperate, but the workers who want to continue working cannot be stopped forcefully and the federation cannot take any disciplinary action against them.

Pithva added, “The producers want that we should permit them a 16-hour shooting, which in no case we are going to agree to. So we are going on a strike starting 6 am from 3 October. The court has continued its previous order that FWICE can go ahead with the strike, but with the same conditions that it had put forth. We are following all the orders and we have full faith in our members.”

Around 2.5 lakh members including workers and technicians will be a part of the strike, Pithva said.

While FWICE is gearing up for the strike, producers said that they are presently involved in discussions to figure out a solution

“Let’s see, we are still talking, FWICE has said that they want to meet so let’s see,” a producer said on said of anonymity. It is learnt that a meeting is scheduled later today.

It remains to be seen if like last time, the two warring parties will reach a consensus one day before the scheduled strike.

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