Announced by all the 23 unions that function under the FWICE -- these include the Indian Film & Television Directors' Association (IFTDA), Association of Film & TV Editors, Cine Costume & Make-Up Artist and Hair Dresser Association, Film Writers' Association, etc -- the strike began outside Film City at 6 am, but a majority of workers refused to be a part of it.
However, as the day progressed, more and more workers started extending their support to it. Prominent Bollywood actor-producers like Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan also joined in. While Aamir put his Dangal shoot on hold, SRK did the same with Dilwale.
With the strike gaining momentum, FWICE lawyers and members from the producers' association are now trying to solve the crisis amicably.
"We didn't dissuade anyone from working, because the court had ordered so. But as the day progressed, even they realised that they had been misled by the producers. Work at Film City has come to a halt. If this issue is not resolved today, our numbers will be even higher tomorrow," says BN Tiwari, the head of the association for sound recordists.
If the strike is not called off, daily shows on TV will be the first casualty. Negotiations were on yesterday, but in vain. Some producers, on condition of anonymity, blamed it on the workers, saying the unions and FWICE were not on the same page, and so, a solution could not be arrived at. On the other hand, members of the federation and other unions have accused the producers of being extremely intolerant.
"Who wants a strike? We were hoping to avoid this situation, but we failed. The only way out of this grim situation is to continue the struggle by striking work. I have already informed all my producers that I will not touch the pen till the strike is called off," says Anjum Rajabali, the man at the helm of affairs right now, fighting for fair payment for all the technicians in the industry, especially the writers.
Now, a little background information. As a practice, FWICE signs a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with producers' bodies to ensure wage-increase and improved working conditions for workers. But, this was mainly for the physical workers. So, this year, other talent-based unions, including cinematographers, editors, art directors and sound recordists, decided that their proposed standard contracts should also be included in the MoU.
The producers' representatives agreed, in principle, that after concluding negotiation meetings with all the unions, the MoU will be signed by January 2015. But that is yet to happen.
"It's not a random decision. We've consulted lawyers and 25 top screenwriters, including Javed Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj, Jaideep Sahni, Sriram Raghavan and Rajat Aroraa, while formulating the writers' Minimum Basic Contract (MBC)," says Anjum, adding, "Film and TV producers who don't have episode banks should start worrying."
From the producers' side, Ekta Kapoor, Rajan Shahi of Directors Kut Productions, Saurabh Tewari, and Sumeet Mittal of Shashi Sumeet Productions had tried to dissuade the workers from going on strike. Ekta even lashed out on her Facebook page, saying, "Agreeing and going back on their words has become their new identity. And that's the reason why the MoU is not signed till date. Being confused and coming up with new and illogical demands, not sticking to their words are the main reasons why FWICE couldn't come on the same page with the producers. So it's a blatant lie that producers don't wish to sign the MoU with the federation...."
Yesterday evening, the Bombay High Court also passed an order favouring the producers. The order restricted FWICE and its affiliates from interfering or obstructing the working on any producer's sets or creating any disturbance within 150-metre radius of the sets or editing studios. It also disallowed the FWICE or an affiliate body from taking punitive action against a worker who decides to switch sides.
While there has been no act of violence reported so far, with the strike gaining strength, there will be pressure on the producers to end the deadlock.
Image Source: facebook/Mayur-Puri