Shooting schedules of television shows and films could well be affected if nearly two lakh cine workers go on an indefinite strike called by the Federation of Western India Cinema Employee (FWICE) starting February 6.
FWICE is the apex trade union body for the cinema and television industry in Mumbai.
The workers are protesting against inadequate and delayed payment of wages and lack of regulation relating to working hours. The apex film body, which heads the 22 film craft associations, has threatened to go on strike after negotiations with the producers’ body failed.
Kamlesh Pandey, president of FWICE, said that in accordance with the functioning of the association, the MoU with the producers’ associations is renewed every five years. Up for renewal again in February this year, the MoU by FWICE demanded a 50 per cent pay raise due to inflation. “It’s of course a negotiable figure. In the meetings that we have held with the producers’ body since then, we have come down to 12.5 per cent. But the producers have shot down that figure too,” said Pandey.
T P Aggarwal, a senior member of The Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPAA), one of the four producer bodies that are in negotiations with FWICE, says the demand will hit producers badly. “More than 90 per cent films are failing at the box-office and the 50 per cent hike will kill the business. We cannot afford anything beyond 10 per cent,” said Aggarwal.
Aggarwal adds that FWICE members across crafts are “paid well”.
“For instance, a fight master gets upwards of Rs 5,000 a day and a light man makes Rs 1,000 a day. They take home good money even if they work 20 days a month,” he said.
However, FWICE members are quick to point out that producers hardly object when stars demand upwards of Rs 10 crore for a film but are unwilling to shell out money to pay skilled labour. In the bargain, however, the film and television industry stands to lose.
Currently, at least five big-budget films in Mumbai are under production, including Aishwarya Rai-Bachchan’s comeback Jazbaa.
A mega project, Bajirao Mastani, director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s next film with Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra and Ranveer Singh in lead roles, is also currently in production. A massive outdoor set has been installed in Film City and each day counts. However, the production team now fears that the strike may lead to a loss running into lakhs. “It’s a grand outdoor set and as we near the monsoons, each day gets more precious. For each day lost, we stand will suffer losses in lakhs,” rues Ashish Tandel, the executive producer at SLB Productions.
However, it is the television industry that will suffer the most if the association goes ahead with the strike. With over 50 television shows under production on any given day, the loss will run into crores of rupees.
According to Aggarwal, if FWICE goes ahead with the strike, they will push for free trade and hire non-members of members from other associations affiliated with political parties such as Shiv Sena and MNS. While the industry agrees this is an option, it also views it as a last recourse.