Three years after the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) approached the Maharashtra Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) complaining about “inhuman” working hours and poor facilities in the TV and film industry, the commission has directed the state labour commissioner “to expeditiously resolve all issues at its level latest within three months” and submit a compliance report.
Last March, the state had constituted a 29-member committee of government officials and industry representatives to look into the critical issues faced by the industry and resolve them. The committee has, however, met only once in the last 17 months.
Taking cognizance of this, the MSHRC, in its August 24 order, had directed the state labour department to look into the charter of demands of the industry workers and ensure that they are discussed by the committee.
Following the lockdown, several film and TV workers are out of jobs and have demanded a wage hike.
“We welcome the decision of the human rights commission. We hope under pressure, the labour commission will start addressing our issues,” said Dr Yogesh Dube, who filed the complaint in MSHRC on behalf of the union.
The FWICE union represents over five lakh members in Maharashtra, including technicians, junior artists, spot boys, electricians, art directors, dubbing artists, carpenters, make-up artists and photographers. In 2017, cine workers had gone on a 15-day protest in Film City demanding better working conditions. In October 2017, they had approached MSHRC.
In its complaint, FWICE has complained of shifts sometimes extending up to 12 to 16 hours, poor wage system and lack of sanitisation at sets.
B N Tiwari, FWICE president who has been attending the MSHRC hearings, said that the immediate concern is the wage hike. “For five years, the wage has been the same. The minimum wage needs to be increased. The Covid-19 pandemic has further worsened the financial condition of the workers,” he added.
MSHRC’s acting chairperson M A Sayeed, in his order, observed that while the pandemic has delayed government functioning, the issues of TV and film industry workers must be soon addressed.
In a response to MSHRC, Deputy Labour Commissioner Raviraj Ilawe said a minimum wage of Rs 15,000 per month is paid to cine workers. He informed that a committee of producers’ body, cine workers and labour department will further deliberate on the wage scale and other issues.
Ilawe told The Indian Express, “Cine workers are regulated by the central Act. State has limited jurisdiction. For beyond eight hours duty, the state can take action only if there is a specific complaint.” He added that the government has also been unable to hold inspections since March due to the pandemic. “In the last one or two years, production houses have made efforts to improve the working condition of workers. Proper food, filtered drinking water and clean toilet facilities have been provided at indoor sets and during outdoor shoots,” said Parth Shah, attached to LSD Films Private Limited.
The main demand, however, is to have eight-hour shifts a day in line with the south India TV and film industry.
When contacted, producer JD Majethia, Indian Film and TV Producers’ Council chairman, said he is yet to see the copy of the MSHRC order.
The TV industry had recorded its first Covid-19 death on July 21 after a tailor, Abdul Ansari, got infected on sets of show Bhakarwadi. Eight others on the Mira Road set were also infected.
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