The logjam between Tamil Film Producers’ Council and the Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) has seen no improvement after the latter instructed their members to not work from Monday until their wage demands are met by the former.
The move follows TFPC’s recent decision to work with both FEFSI and non-FEFSI members.
More than 20 film shoots including Superstar Rajinikanth’s Kaala have been affected, according to IANS. However, the shooting of TFPC president’s Thupparivalan is underway in Chidambaram. A video from the sets of the same was released by the film’s publicist on Twitter.
What is the issue and why is it important for Kollywood?
The story until now:
The issue first came to the spotlight on the sets of Billa Pandi where production was halted as technicians stopped work over travel allowance payments. Irked by the disruption in the shooting, TFPC had asked FEFSI to reprimand the Technicians Union. In response, FEFSI pulled up the technician union for acting unilaterally and had also asked member Dhanapal to apologise for lashing out at TFPC president Vishal using inappropriate language.
However, continuous disagreements over allowances ensued between the bodies. TFPC had asked for TU to be derecognised, a demand which FEFSI said they can not comply with. “It is not possible for us to isolate one particular union. The 24 unions have been united for almost forty years,” said Angamuthu Shanmugam, General Secretary, FEFSI to Indianexpress.com.
Another bone of contention is the determination of ‘general conditions’ — the time period of work, the number of people to be employed, overtime wages etc.
Thus, FEFSI instructed its members to not work from August 1. TFPC, on the other hand, has said that there is no change in their stand and that film shoots will continue as per schedule despite the strike. In a statement released recently, TFPC also has said that while they aren’t averse to working with FEFSI members, producers can’t be expected to work exclusively with FEFSI members.
FEFSI which has around 24,000 members is bound to be affected due to a shortage of work. “Around 10,000 jobs will be affected. Livelihoods of thousands of members depend on this. We don’t want to stop working but have been pushed to this situation. This is an issue of rights. We have agreed to a lot of their demands,” said Shanmugam to Indianexpress.com.
On the other hand, S R Prabhu, Treasurer, TFPC has said that they did not refuse to work with the Federation. “We never reduced the salary. We just want to regulate the allowances. While they can work for ads and serials, why should we work only with them?” he asked.
“Whenever there is night travel, they ask for an extra day wage for every 300 km travelled. Say, we travel 650 km, we have to pay them additional wages of three days. Also, there are disagreements on the number of people we require. For example, even if the heroine doesn’t need makeup, they expect us to have an assistant, a costume person, a makeup artist and hairdresser just because there is a girl in the frame. This is not fair and adds to our costs,” he said.
He further added, “We have our own right to hire who is required for the job. The only requisite is that we should pay them proper wages; that we are ready to. We don’t want to hurt the workers. We are ready to work with them. They are not our enemies. But, at the same time producers should also not be harmed.”
Film production will face hurdles but we will figure a way out, added Prabhu.
“What FEFSI might do next is appeal to the state government,” says Film trade analyst Sreedhar Pillai. “But that can prove to be tricky as the government already has issues like movie taxes pending with the industry. So all of those will also come into focus if the government enters the picture,” Pillai said. But what if the deadlock continues? We might have to wait. “Many crews have taken a break as they want to be neutral and not offend both Vishal and FEFSI,” he added.