Actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shahrukh Khan joined over 130,000 members of the Bollywood film industry and domestic Indian television workforce in a pay-dispute strike. The strike started on Wednesday 1st October 2008, is in protest of low wages, late or non-payments and use of non-union staff by the Indian film and television industries.
The Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE) which has over 20 unions affiliated with it, stated that no work would be done until the dispute was addressed for its members, which included actors, dancers, writers, lighting and sound technicians and camera operators. Asking for better pay from the producers was within the rights of its members. Because for example, for an 8 hour day, a film worker’s wages would be about Rs 600 (£7) and a television worker’s about Rs 500 (£6) but in reality they ended up working up to 24 hours with no additional pay. A major complaint was that of late payments where workers were simply not getting paid on time by producers.
Dharmesh Tiwari, Secretary of FWICE said, “We are not demanding any thing extra. Only the wages as signed in the Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) between the producer associations and workers federation.”
However, in retaliation, Sushma Shiromanee who is from the the Indian Motion Picture Producers Association, was adamant that employers would not easily give in to the demands of the unions. She criticised the strike action for threatening other people’s livelihoods. But Ratan Jain, president of the Association of Motion Picture & TV Program Producers, said producers would try to hammer out a proposal to agree with union representatives.
The strike came at time when big ticket sales were anticipated due to the festivities of Eid and Diwali and it is bound to have a major impact to the local economy. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, revenue from India’s film business generated roughly £1.1 billion in 2006, and is expected to double by 2012.
The strike was subsequently resolved on 3rd October 2008 between the unions and producers. A memorandum of understanding was signed between the two sides. Dinesh Chaturvedi of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees said “the producers had agreed to our demands.” He added, “Workers have faith in the producers. Now it’s up to the producers to have faith in the workers.”
So, it will be of interest to see how long this agreement is sustained and honoured because fairness and democratic rights in India for workers in this industry are not exactly on the same par as those in countries like America.