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Producers put foot down; FWICE calls off strike

Shyamashis BhattacharyaMUMBAI: A day after the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE) called for a strike, TV producers too stood in solidarity and refused to sign the pending memorandum of understanding (MoU) until lawyers from both the parties were consulted and a legal document was formed. After a long meeting on Saturday night, the FWICE decided to call off the strike, opting instead to resolve matters with the producers.

The strike was called off on the written assurance of producers and broadcasters that the MoU would be signed by 14 October based on mutual terms and conditions.

Indian Film and TV Producers Council (IFTPC) member Shyamashis Bhattacharya told TelevisionPost.com, “The strike has been called off, but there are some issues that still need to be resolved and we are hoping to have a legal MoU by 14 October. The FWICE agreed to discuss the MoU with our lawyers on 2 October, so it has been only two days since the lawyers spoke.”

Dilip PithvaMeanwhile, FWICE general secretary Dilip Pithva said, “The strike has been called off after producers accepted some of our demands. Moreover, the broadcasters have assured us that they are with us on this and the matter will be sorted within 10 days. I think it will be easier now as the giver (broadcaster) and the takers (workers) will sit together.”

For the first time in the history of FWICE, representatives from the top four networks, namely Star, Zee, Viacom18 and Sony, were present at the meeting. Generally, it is only producers who attend such meetings.

Both sides have appointed lawyers and are working on a new MOU keeping in mind all the legalities including CCI.

“Basically, producers wanted this MoU to be out of the industrial court, but we need the MoU to be within the jurisdiction of the industrial court. We have trust in this court,” Pithva added.

Some of the points that producers accepted are as follows: second Sundays will be off; monthly workers will get four offs on a rotational basis; monthly workers will be paid by the 10th of every month; credit period of artists, writers, DoP, etc., whose payment scales are higher, will not exceed 60 days; and any accidents/mishaps or death on the sets will be producer’s responsibility.

The friction between the producers’ association and FWICE began in February this year when the MoU between the two parties expired and they failed to reach an agreement on its renewal. The reason being that several clauses in the document were found to be anti-competitive and deemed ‘illegal’ by the producers. Some of these clauses included fines on workers and producers, member-to-member working and others.

This led to the FWICE calling for an indefinite strike from 3 October. Despite several meetings, the two parties could not reach a consensus.

The producers claim that they agreed to meet the FWICE and resolve the issue once the workers agreed to call off the strike.

Rahul Tewary

Rahul Tewary

Swastik Productions’ Rahul Tewary stated, “We had asked FWICE four months ago to initiate discussion between the lawyers of both parties, but they refused. Now they have agreed and the lawyers will discuss the issues and find a solution. The point is that all TV shows across Mumbai were shooting on 3 October and all our units including artists, technicians and workers reported for the shoot and the strike failed.”

IFTPC co-chairman and producer JD Majethia added, “The strike fizzled out as not a single producer reported absence of workers from their shoots. There is no reason for the strike as the workers have got a hike in their payments as was discussed in May. We were trying to push the dialogue and told FWICE about our eagerness to sign any document that is legally permissible.”

JD MajethiaPithva mentioned that except for the six contractual crafts (such as artists, writers), all other crafts have got the 13 per cent increment, starting 1 September.

The second talk between them bore no fruit because the FWICE was asking for the TV and film MoUs to be signed together, but since the working process of these two crafts is different, the producers disagreed.

“We had told FWICE three months earlier that there would be a separate MoU for film and TV as the process of working is different for the two,” Majethia added.

While it seems that the matter will be resolved soon, it has left the producers disgruntled, who seem to be fed up with the threats for strike. Some of these producers told TVP that they were scouting for locations outside Mumbai for their upcoming shows as it would give them more freedom to work.

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