The suicide by Marathi film art director Raju Sapte on 3rd July, 2021 due to the harassment and torture at the hands of the craft association, Film Studio Setting And Allied Mazdoor Union (FSSAMU), and the umbrella association, the Federation of Western India Cine Employees, has acted as a catalyst for ending the Union raj in the film industry as far as workers and craft associations are concerned. A meeting between producers and labour commissioners on 12th July brought to light the fact that the practice of depositing wages of workers with the associations/trade unions of which they were members was illegal. It was also underlined by the government that unions cannot insist on producers to employ only their members and can, therefore, not stop shootings if non-members are employed.

Representatives of the Indian Motion Picture Producers’ Association (IMPPA), Indian Film & Television Producers Council (IFTPC), Western India Film Producers Association (WIFPA) and other associations had a meeting on 12th July with the additional labour commissioner, Konkan Division, Bombay and other senior officials of the Maharashtra government labour commissioner’s office. The associations informed the labour commissioners about the harassment meted out to producers by insisting on payment of the workers’ wages in the union’s name and also by insisting on employing the services of only union members for shootings in spite of an order to the contrary by the Competition Commission of India and by the unions keeping vigilance squads to make sure that no FWICE non-affiliates were employed by any producer, and, in case of such employment, by levying heavy penalty which was collected in cash by the concerned union and the FWICE from the producer by threatening to disrupt the shooting. IMPPA also submitted various letters addressed to the FWICE and its affiliates in this matter, to the labour commissioner.

The additional labour commissioner informed the associations that the activities about which they were complaining were all illegal as per labour laws. The commissioner on 16th July issued comprehensive directions which have to be compulsorily followed by all producers and workers working in the entertainment industry. The directions are as under:

As per Clause 6 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, producers are constrained/prohibited from paying cine workers/employees through workers’ associations/unions, and if remuneration of workers is not deposited directly in workers’ bank accounts (by the respective producers), legal action will be initiated against such producers in the labour department. As per the provisions of various Labour Acts, it is mandatory for all producers to deposit remuneration/ benefits/allowances of workers directly in their bank accounts only.

According to a provision in Clause 18 (2) of the Maharashtra Shops and Establishments Act, it is mandatory for all producers to give proper identity cards (as per prescribed format) to cine workers/employees employed by them, and only the card issued by the producer will be valid during the shooting period and for entry in shooting premises, and the ID card of workers’ association will not be considered as valid or mandatory.

Vigilance committees formed by workers’ associations/unions have no legal standing and if such vigilance committees attempt to interfere on the sets during shooting, immediate complaint must be filed by the producer with the police.

The labour commissioner has informed that any workers’ association/union should not compel/make it mandatory for producers/art directors to exclusively employ its members only. If any concerned workers’ association/union engages in such acts, immediate complaint must be filed (by respective producer) with the police.

The labour commissioner has informed that in terms of provisions of Clause 5 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936, it is mandatory for producers/contractor to pay remuneration to their workers/employees within prescribed time limits (within 7 days of next month for production houses with less than 1,000 employees and within 10 days for production houses with more than 1,000 employees). Also, it is mandatory (for film/television/digital content producers) to maintain updated attendance muster and salary register for workers in the prescribed format, and the payment has to be compulsorily made as per relevant Labour Acts (Minimum Wages Act, 1948, Payment of Wages Act, 1936, Contract Labour (Regulation & Abolition) Act, 1970), deposited in the concerned worker’s bank account via cheque/demand draft/RTGS, and it is illegal to deposit/pay workers’ remuneration to workers’ association/union .

The producers’ associations have, therefore, informed all their members that the abovementioned are statutory requirements which had to be fulfilled and followed by them as informed by the labour commissioner.

Further to the above, the IMPPA has confirmed that as per its meeting with the home minister of Maharashtra, the police commissioner of Bombay and other senior police officials, producers had henceforth been offered full police protection against any sort of extortion or harassment. Towards this, a Whatsapp group of producers and police had been set up to solve problems of harassment being faced by producers. The IMPPA has urged producers to come forward and lodge complaints with the police and the IMPPA on 98200-29380 in case of any kind of harassment or torture.

In fact, the IMPPA today (20th July) organised an exclusive webinar for its members to apprise them about the above.