When the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE) threatened to launch an indefinite strike on Saturday over a variety of demands, it brought back a rush of memories about the 2008 blackout.
The strike affected the shoot of Aamir Khan-starrer Dangal. However, the actor lent his support to the cine workers' cause
Over 1.5 lakh workers had gone on an indefinite strike then and though the ceasework lasted for just three days, it crippled operations in tinseltown.
This time too, it looked like things would spiral out of control. The strike began on early Saturday morning, bringing the shoot of films and television soaps to a grinding halt. The big-ticket movies that were affected included Rohit Shetty's 'Dilwale', Aamir Khan-starrer 'Dangal' and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's ajirao Mastani
The shoot of a television soap in progress at Filmcity. Pic/Yogen Shah
However, in less than 24 hours, the agitation was called off following several rounds of discussion between producer associations and the FWICE, which controls 22 unions covering various crafts associated with the film industry. The federation resorted to an agitation after producers did not sign its MoU that calls for a hike in daily wages and improved working conditions among other things. The agreement, which is drafted by the FWICE and renewed every five years, expired on February 28.
A junior artiste, who was part of the meeting, says, "The strike was called off after a brief meeting with the producers and broadcasters. We have been promised that the renewed MOU will be signed by October 14 and our pending dues will also be cleared. If they go back on their words, we will go on a strike again."
Kamlesh Pandey, who heads the FWICE, says that stars like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan besides top-notch filmmakers including Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Ashutosh Gowariker had lent support to the strike. "They have accepted almost all our demands, including a hike in wages. I would say this decision is historic since all leading broadcasters played a constructive and decisive role in the meeting. Earlier, our MoU was not legally sound, but this time our lawyers and those of the producers will sit together to chalk out the document. Everyone is on the same page and the MoU will be signed," adds Pandey.
Playing down the impact of the strike, JD Majethia, co-chairman of the Indian Film and TV Producers Council, states that it was an unsuccessful attempt on the cine workers' part. "Everybody, including writers, actors and directors, reported to the sets. The workers put forth some demands including increment in wages, but we have already given them that long ago. We have never said no to anything. The only thing we have been asking for is that the MoU has to be a legally permissible document. Two of our lawyers were sitting in the meeting and for the first time, they got a lawyer to represent them. They have realised that the MoU needs to be carefully made.
In any case, we have mutually agreed to sign it by October 14," he states.
These demands of the FWICE have been agreed on:
>> 13 per cent increment in wages with retrospective effect from September 1, 2015.
>> Regulate working hours.
>> Accident cover for technicians.
>> All television and film writers to get royalty.
>> Producers defaulting on payment will be blacklisted. All salaries (less than R1 lakh) to be cleared within 30 days; salaries above R1 lakh have to be paid within 60 days.
>> Broadcasters have agreed to withhold last instalment of funds for all producers for 90 days until they get an NoC from the FWICE over clearance of payment.
>> Cine workers to get four holidays a month, including second Sundays.
Earlier instances of FWICE resorting to a ceasework:
Trigger: Demand for payment on time; strike lasts three days
Outcome: An MoU was signed between the FWICE and four producer bodies
Trigger: Studio management restricting entry of workers
Outcome: The issue was amicably resolved
Trigger: Government’s proposal to bring film industry under the purview of service tax
Outcome: Succeeded in getting the government to abolish the tax
Trigger: Alleged manhandling by Ekta Kapoor’s production team
Outcome: Issue was resolved
Trigger: Police arrested five cine workers for allegedly assaulting the trade union registrar
Outcome: Strike called off within hours of being called
Trigger: Producers unwilling to abide by the MoU sent to them by FWICE
Outcome: Issue resolved after talks with producers