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FWICE’s call for strike brings uncertainty to TV industry

MUMBAI: The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE), in a bid to stand up for the rights of the trade union, has called for an indefinite strike from 6 May. What this essentially means is that if the producers do not comply with the workers’ wage demands, they will stop working from the stated date bringing the shoots of all television serials to a halt.

Due for a new agreement between the federation and producers, the fee hike demand ranges from 40–50 per cent for junior artists, spot boys, and middle and lower-level workers on TV show sets. The producers find this demand steep and unreasonable.

After the five-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the federation and producers expired, an MoU was drafted and sent to producers in March. The federation demanded a fee hike for workers who work on TV show sets for long hours. The producers have refused to stick to such a clause.

In case of a stalemate, the TV industry would be badly hit. However, both the federation and producers maintain that they are open for negotiations.

A broadcaster on the condition of anonymity informed that on 29 April, the FWICE and producers will be meeting to work out a resolution.

Cine and TV Artists Association (CINTAA) general secretary Pankaj Dheer says, “The MoU comprises 22 different industry bodies of light men, spot boys, and other workers on TV show sets. We are one big family, and this is a row between siblings.”

The siblings seem to be rolling up their sleeves quite often since May last year. Last May, the shooting of several TV shows was halted following a strike at Filmcity, Mumbai. The Allied Mazdoor Union of light men and spotboys went on strike after the union members were allegedly manhandled by the staff of a leading production house.

Although the federation has demanded a 40–50 per cent hike over the five-year MoU that recently expired, the workers got an annual hike of 5–7 per cent.

As per the FWICE daily wage structure, a copy of which is with TelevisionPost.com, in 2014 the workers got a hike of 7.5 per cent. The chief assistant art director was paid Rs 1,888 per shift, with a conveyance charge of Rs 563 in 2013. In 2014, that got revised to Rs 2,029, but the conveyance charge remained unchanged.

Daily wages chart new

Similarly, a prop man got Rs 1,043 per shift with conveyance charge of Rs 468 in 2013, which got revised to Rs 1,121 in 2014.

A producer said that every year they have been increasing the salaries of the workers, but suddenly asking for such a hike is not achievable for them and they are happy offering a systematic hike.

Another producer informed that they are not being able to sign the revised MoU as there is a case pending in the Competition Commission of India on signing an exclusive contract with the federation where it will not allow anyone outside the trade union to work for the industry.

“Since the matter is sub judice, we cannot sign the MoU. Discussions are on and we hope the issue gets resolved soon,” he stated.

However, FWICE general secretary Dilip Pithva has a different story to tell. According to him, while the producers have denied signing the MoU citing a CCI direction, the CCI itself is saying that they have not issued any direction to the producers.