Thursday, October 02, 2008

Strike brings Bollywood to a halt
Bollywood technician
Some workers have not been paid for months, unions say

All work in India's film and television hub of Bollywood has stopped after thousands of technicians and actors began a strike over pay and conditions.

Unions representing film employees in Mumbai (Bombay) say many members have not been paid for months and are threatening to strike indefinitely.

Meanwhile, film producers have told the BBC they will meet to decide their response on Thursday.

They say that they are prepared to weather a long dispute if necessary.

'No compromise'

"Employees sometimes work for as long as 30 hours at a stretch. There have been serious health issues and even accidents. We have been writing to producers but it got us nowhere," said Dinesh Chaturvedi of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees.

He said that workers' patience had reached "saturation point" because wages had not been paid for months and contracts were not being honoured.

Mr Chaturvedi - whose federation of 22 unions represents 147,000 members - said that in some cases wages had been withheld for up to six months, leaving workers on the verge of starvation.

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Mr Chaturvedi says the Senior Artists Association is also part of his federation and are part of the non co-operation, although it is not clear if any major stars are taking part in the strike.

Daily wage workers, comprising lighting technicians and camera crew, insist that they are not ready to compromise until their demands are satisfied.

Premsingh Thakur, who heads a union mostly made up of lighting technicians, said that about 35,000 of his members had not reported for work on Wednesday.

"We do not want any bonus. We just want the wages which were decided by producers. Until this matter is solved we will not start work," he said.

The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai says that television productions on tight schedules like reality shows are the most affected by the dispute and several shooting schedules for daily shows have been cancelled.

Those on strike range from from dancing girls to carpenters, lighting technicians to cameramen, and soundmen to script writers.

Farhan Khan, who works on the production team of a reality show, told the BBC: "All shooting has come to a complete halt. We are losing money and we just have to wait till it is resolved."

But Sushma Shiromanee of the Indian Motion Picture Producers' Association said employers were prepared to hold out for months if need be.

"There is no shooting at all today, but there is no panic here. The biggest problem is with the TV producers," she told the BBC.

"This is not only harming producers, but daily wage workers, too, who aren't earning anything because of it... They should have sat down with us to talk about this. We can wait for six months if necessary.


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