TV soap bubble bursts again, no fresh shooting

Mumbai, Nov 21 (IANS) The crisis in the television industry is back after some associations of technicians failed to report for work though producers said they would resume shooting for their on-going serials after a 12-day shutdown.

After a fresh agreement was signed between the workers' apex body, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) and the core committee of the television programme producers Wednesday over their wages, it was announced that the workers would resume shooting from Thursday.

But soon after the agreement was signed, some associations of technicians complained to FWICE that they were unhappy with the new wages fixed for them.

Sound recordists, dressmen and hairdressers, in particular, are not happy with the new wages fixed for them and they want a further hike.

Sound recordists, whose wage was hiked to Rs.40,000 per month, are now demanding a salary of Rs.55,000. Similarly, make-up artists with their two assistants were offered a consolidated salary of Rs.80,000 per month. But they are demanding that it should be hiked to Rs.130,000.

Hairdressers are also demanding a further hike of Rs.49,000 in their salary newly fixed at Rs.51,000 a month.

Likewise, dressmen, who are in charge of the costumes created by costume designers for artistes and keep the inventories, are not happy with Rs.36,000 monthly salary fixed for them. They are demanding that it should be hiked to Rs.100,000.

Producers are categorical that they would do nothing of the sort and have threatened to hire professionals from outside the unions if the technicians do not report for shooting by Saturday.

"We have given every section of the television workers a fair hike in their respective wages and have told them that the hike will stay for a year, besides assuring them timely payment of the same. We cannot afford to give them any more concessions," Mukesh Bhatt, chairman of the producers' core committee, told IANS Friday.

Ratan Jain, president of the Association of Motion Pictures and Television Programme Producers (AMPTPP) bluntly said that producers would not give workers a rupee more than what was agreed to.

"If they are hoping to get more money by blackmailing us, let me say, they are living in a dream world. It seems they have not yet woken up to the economic reality of the world today. They should consider themselves lucky that, when even big companies are retrenching people to combat today's economic situation, we are not only retaining them but have also given them reasonable salary-hike," he said.

The new development over the wage issue has put the FWICE in a fix.

"If some sections of the professionals in the television industry are not happy with their new wages, what can the federation do? By drawing up a fresh agreement, we did our best to bring back normalcy in the industry, keeping the interests of both producers and television workers in mind. We are helpless if we could not satisfy all," said FWICE president Dharmesh Tiwari.

The organisation's general secretary, Dinesh Chaturvedi was more forthright when he said in view of the present scenario, the new agreement that was signed on Nov 19 was as good as cancelled.

But is the continuing protest justified?

"Why, producers had also earlier refused to honour the agreement they had signed with us in 2006. The associations which are not happy with the new wages fixed for their members are meeting today among themselves. Only after we hear from them can we say where this new development will lead to," Chaturvedi said.

Which means that viewers, who have been waiting eagerly for the new episodes of their favourite serials to come on the TV screen, may have to wait longer as there is still uncertainty whether normalcy would return to the industry soon.

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