Bollywood technicians go on strike

Mumbai, Oct 1 (IANS) In what is termed as an unprecedented development, nearly 140,000 Bollywood and TV industry technicians and workers launched a non-cooperation agitation here Wednesday even as a producers' association declared the strike illegal.

Spearheading the agitation, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) has alleged "unethical practices" of the producers' associations as one of the reasons for the mass action.

The immediate fallout was the abrupt cancellation of at least three major film shootings and scores of TV show shootings, according to an FWICE member.

FWICE office-bearer Dharmesh Tiwari told mediapersons that the four main producers' organisations had signed a three-year memorandum of understanding (MoU) with FWICE and the Cine and TV Artists Association' two years ago.

The MoU revised and specified parameters such as technicians' working hours, payment tariffs and time limit for payment, but these were being flouted by the producers' associations, Tiwari said.

He pointed out that TV industry workers and technicians were at a bigger disadvantage on these counts.

"The average working shift for a TV serial technician - be it a spot boy or a lightsman - is over 15 hours. Ditto for film shoots. Added to the work pressures is the channel producers' not settling workers' their dues on time, or providing medical attention during work emergencies, and denial of weekly off,” he said.

The MoU stipulated that the producers must clear the dues within 120 days of services taken, many workers have not been paid since February this year, he said.

Some film stars like Shah Rukh Khan, who also runs a production house of his own, have supported the cause.

The FWICE has 22 unions and over 1,40,000 workers under it.

Meanwhile, the Western India Film Producers' Association (WIFPA) said the protest was illegal.

"The cine workers' strike is illegal as a notice of strike was not served to us as per the trade union law," WIFPA president Sangram Shirke said in a statement.

"While sympathising with the miseries of the daily wage workers, due to most non-cooperative attitude of the FWICE by again and again violating the MoU, the executive committee of WIFPA decided to allow its members to adopt the policy of the free trade and may employ any cine worker from any trade organisation on the terms and conditions mutually agreed upon," the statement said.

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