Tamil film industry on verge of crisis over wage revision

Chennai:  The multi-million rupee Tamil film industry seems to be on the verge of a crisis with wage revision turning out to be a flash point between unions of producers and workers.

Peeved over the "unilateral decision" of the workers' body Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) on revising the wage structure, the Tamil Film Producers' Council(TFPC) has ruled out working with them.

While a strike paralysing the industry boasting some of the biggest names of Indian cinema, including actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan is not in the offing; Film Employees Federation of South India has however decided to take to the streets by organising a fast, sources said.

Sources indicated that not much production activity took place last week, with Tamil Film Producers' Council convening an emergency meeting of its general council to discuss the issue on Monday, even as it held that it could not negotiate with Film Employees Federation of South India due to elections to the body and change of guard.

While wage revision had been happening once in three years for the past few years, it did not happen last year with the expiry of the latest scale in early 2011.

However, Film Employees Federation of South India went ahead and announced a scale, which is now the bone of contention between the two bodies.

"Agreement on pay scale is usually signed after discussions with both parties and this time Film Employees Federation of South India's unilateral decision was against normal practice," Tamil Film Producers' Council sources said.

However, a Film Employees Federation of South India office-bearer said the demand to increase pay by 30-50 per cent was the general scale proposed. Noted director Cheran, known for critically acclaimed films like 'Autograph', batted for producers, saying it was"unfair" of the workers to demand a 100 per cent hike when investing on films had become a "gamble".

"A director or a cinematographer receives wages only according to the budget of the film. But for the workers, the scale is constant, irrespective of investment made into the film, whether shot on Rs 100 crore or made on a shoe-string budget," he added.

The move would only further worsen the industry, where successful films are becoming fewer and filmmaking itself is a big challenge, Cheran added.

Even a talented, tech-savvy film-maker has to shell out more if he abides by Film Employees Federation of South India rules, though he can manage to complete his films within a few lakhs of rupees, he claimed.

Meanwhile, the eternal demand of top stars reducing their salaries has also come up once again from some sections. Many of the major actors are paid in crores besides some being given rights to the film in some areas.

A strike by the Film Employees Federation of South India a few years ago had paralysed the Tamil film industry.

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