Technicians had mounted strike over pay

Confusion reigns in the Indian TV industry after unions said they might tear up an agreement that appeared to end a strike by technicians over pay and conditions.

TV producers had agreed to hike pay between 7.5% and 35% for more than a dozen crew categories and promised to create new contracts replacing daily pay with monthly hires that include life insurance.

That pact was signed on Wednesday and production was expected to restart Thursday, but union bosses were caught out by angry reactions from some of their members, including make-up artists and sound engineers, who said the deal was not rich enough.

“We are scrapping the memorandum of understanding we signed,” said Dinesh Chaturvedi, secretary of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (Fwice), which represents some 500,000 workers in 20 below-the-line crafts.

However, Ratan Jain, president of the Assn. of Motion Pictures and Television Program Producers said that producers would not give workers a rupee more than what was agreed to.

The strike, led by Fwice, began Nov. 10 and many Hindi TV channels ran out of the shows and telenovelas that are their life blood and were forced to air re-runs, leading to falling auds and complaints from advertisers.

On Friday, News. Corp.’s Star Plus skedded a three-hour rerun of India’s longest running soap “Kyunki saas bhi kabhi bahu thi.”

Producers’ association chairman Mahesh Bhatt estimated losses caused by the strike amounted to $20 million.

If employees return to work new shows are not expected to be ready to air for at least another week.

While broadcasters appear to approve measures to put production on a more professional footing, some networks say that with advertisers increasingly jittery, they can’t afford to pay more for shows and that the producers must absorb the increases.

Last month, production of Bollywood movies was affected by a three-day strike.

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