All India Film Employees Confederation(AIFEC),Moving Beyond Regional Frontiers– By Opender Chanana(Copyrights reserved)
It took nearly two decades for all existing regional federations to have an All India body to voice their collective and individual concerns. We have observed that several attempts were made earlier to have such a body in fifties. However, the idea could not take shape. Not all film making centers in various states had a federation during that period.The issue of choosing between the Trade Union Act and Society’s Act for registration also generated debate in the initial years. On the other hand a few individuals associated with the movement continued to exchange ideas and thoughts on the formation of an All India body. Amongst them were:
Mr. Nimai Ghosh, Mr. Subrata Sen, Mr. Anil Sen Sharma, Mr.Salil Sen, and
That the idea of forming an All India organization of film industry’s trade unions sprouted in the soil of Tamil Nadu and the credit for being the progenitor goes to Mr.M.B. Srinivasan. In Mr. Vasant Kulkarni, he found an able supported in Mumbai. Even though the body had not been registered the first conference of the newly formed All India body of film employees took place in Madras in June 1973. Mr. Madhusudan recalls the fact that the said conference is remembered by everybody with nostalgia and has become a part of the folklore of film employees struggle for solidarity.
Legend has it that doyen of Tamil Cinema and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr. M.G. Ramachandran served food to the delegates attending the conference in the glorious tradition of hospitality of the Southern Region. The Conference was a great success.
Keeping in view the fact that both the Eastern and Southern regions didn’t have necessary infrastructure to house the head office of the Confederation, it was decided that the office of AIFEC would be located at FWICE office in Mumbai. Since FWICE was the senior most amongst all regional federations, Mr. M.B. Srinivasan Proposed the following names for principal office bearers from Western Region:-
President : Mr. Manmohan Krishna
General Secretary : Mr. Vasant Kulkarni
Other members of the first Executive Committee of AIFEC from all the regions were:-
Western Region :
Mr. Hrishikesh Mukherjee,Mr. Madhusudan,Mr. Haren Bhatt and Mr. Salil Choudhary
Southern Region :Mr. M.B. Srinivasan,Mr. Nimai Ghosh and Mr. N. Sheshadri
Eastern Region: Mr. Subrata Sen and Mr. Salil Sen.
Out of the five seats allotted to Eastern Region in the National Executive Committee, two seats were kept open for the nominees of Cine Technicians and Workers Union. One of the key decisions taken in the Conference was to get AIFEC registered under the Trade Union Act. The following representatives from Western region, Eastern Region and Southern Region were authorised to submit application for registration:-
Mr. Manmohan Krishna, Mr. Madhusudan, Mr. Haren Bhatt, Mr. M.B. Srinivasan Mr. Nimai Ghosh, Mr. N. Sheshadri, Mr. Subrata Sen and Mr. Salil Sen.
The Steering Committee meeting of the National Executive Committee of AIFE Cheld in Madras on 18-20 May, 1973 also took the following two important decisions:-i) The principal office-bearer ship should be given to each region by rotation and the said region be allowed to suggest names for the posts of the President or Vice President, General Secretary and the Treasurer. ii) The posts of the Vice Presidents and Joint Secretaries should go to the remaining two regions. The trade union movement suffered a great set back when Mr. M.B. Srinivasan and Mr. Vasant Kulkarni, considered to be architects of the constitution of AIFEC passed away. This was the time when AIFEC had just taken off and aspired to become the official voice of all regional federations. AIFEC wasted no time in setting up an Agenda that focused on the following important issues:-
- Recognition of film making as an industry,
- Application of all pro-labour laws passed in Parliament since independence to workers in film industry.
- Special legislation for film industry keeping in view its unique character and requirements.
While it did succeed in having two Acts passed in Parliament, the demand for recognition of film making as an industry has so far failed to find favor with successive Governments. It is to be noted that the late Mr. V.P. Sathe, Minister of Information & Broadcasting did appoint a high powered Committee to consider grant film making the status of an industry. However, FFI (Film Federation of India), the apex body of Producers, Distributors, and Exhibitors opposed the move. In the second meeting of the National Executive Committee held at Madras on January 26-27 1974, called upon all regional federations to launch a movement as early as possible on the following demands:-
- Special Legislation ,
- Minimum pay for all Crafts with provision for variable Dearness Allowance,
- Lessening or stipulation of contact period in the case of contractual employees engaged on lump sum payments ,
- Establishment of Employment Boards for all casual film employees
- and Accident-cum-Risk Insurance for all employees involved in hazardous works such as movie stunt-men, etc.
The representatives attending this meeting also opined that all preparations for launching of the movement on the above Charter of Demands should be concluded before the end of February 1974 and March 3, 1974 should be observed as THEALL INDIA FILM EMPLOYEES’ DAY. While the Central Government’s decision to amend the Copyright Act in the year 2010 that could result in writers, lyric writers, and perhaps directors getting the benefit of royalty has generated heated debate in the media, AIFEC as far back as 1974 took the decision to hold a special convention on Copyright. This decision was taken in the 3rd meeting of the National Executive Committee meeting held in Bombay on January11-12 at Mumbai. It entrusted Mr. M.B. Srinivasan the responsibility of meeting Writers, Composers, Musicians, Art Directors and other bodies to prepare the basis for this convention.16th November 1978 is considered to be an important date in the history of AIFEC when it called for an all India one day token strike.
It was the first pro-active stand that led to the arrest of many workers and its Joint Secretary Mr. K.B. Shetty . In the 7th meeting of National Executive Committee held at Madras on July 7-8,1979 various sub committees were formed to deal with matters relating to:-
i) Discharge of liabilities to the Writers
ii) Insurance against risk
iii) Standard Contractive) Protection of legal rights of Salaried/Casual Employees.
In the above referred meeting it was also decided to write to Minister of Information& Broadcasting for inclusion of all those crafts which were not included in the list of National Film Awards every year. Mr. M. Somnath who became the most visible face of FWICE was also appointed as the Executive Secretary of AIFEC in this meeting. In the late seventies on account of political uncertainty AIFEC, despite several meetings with concerned Ministers in the Central Government, failed to get favorable response. It was only on 7th January 1981 that the Central Cabinet in its meeting decided to bring in legislation in the Parliament to protect the interests and rights of certain categories of cine workers and employees of cinema theatres.
While welcoming the decision of the Central Government to introduce a Special Legislation to protect the interest of employees in Film Production Sector, AIFEC brought to the notice of the Government of India, that the Proposed Bill should contain within it the following provisions for it become an effective instrument for the protection of thousands of film employees, who, lead lives of insecurity and uncertainty:
- The Bill should so define a Cinema Worker that all categories working in the Production Sector, from those fulfilling unskilled work to those undertaking skilled work, are fully and entirely covered by the protection.
- The payment of earned remuneration to them should be fully and equitably guaranteed in accordance with the assignments they are called upon to fulfil .
- The proposed written agreement that every producer is called upon to enter into with each worker, must be fair as per a well-defined Performa and not one-sided and inequitable .
- The Cine Workers’ Tribunal proposed under the Bill, should be exclusive for this Industry, which has very many unique features of employer/employee relations and there must be a time limit for seeking of relief through the Tribunal.
- The proposed Bill should provide for suitable protection during old age and disability.
- The proposed Bill should provide for medical benefits, particularly to the thousands of film employees who are living on the border of poverty line.
- The proposed Bill must provide for suitable insurance and/or compensation against risks undertaken to life or limb in the course of film production work.
We have observed that several committed trade unionists have been victimized inthe past on account of their pro worker stand. In this connection it is interesting to note that late Mr. Nimai Ghose presented a paper on Workers’ Cooperatives to provide relief to the victimized veterans in the workers trade union movement. Inthe 10th meeting of the NEC held at Bombay on 28-29 December, 1981, extensive discussion was held on the paper presented by him. It was resolved that without attaching any label of AIFEC and Federations and/or unions, such a scheme on the part of the victimized or to help/assist the victimized should be encouraged and that Mr. Nimai Ghose and Mr. Madhusudan should work on setting up such production units with the support and backing of their colleagues in the trade union movement, who may be occupying positions of responsibility in different Government agencies. In the 3rd National Conference of AIFEC held on 16-18 January 1982 at Calcutta, various issues relating to Foreign Film-making Units shooting in India were taken up for discussion.
The Conference took note of the fact that increasing number of foreign film making units were coming to India to shoot films. It also observed that in violation of the practice followed abroad, very few Indian technicians were employed in these productions, and often the information about foreign units shooting in India reached them long after they have left the country.
It demanded that all foreign film technicians of whatever craft must obtain temporary membership of the corresponding craft in India. It also demanded that in keeping with the International practice, for technicians employed in the foreign units as many local technicians shall also be employed in them and that they must be paid according to International practice. The resolution passed in this connection was forwarded to the National Film Development Corporation Limited. Efforts of AIFEC to have its representatives on Central Advisory Committees at various Centers paid dividend when in its communication dated 2nd April 1985, the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting asked for panel of names of cine workers to be included in the Committee that advises the Central Government on various matters arising out of the administration of the Cine Workers Welfare Fund Act,1981.AIFEC also took the initiative of drawing the attention of the Government to its responsibility to educate and train technical personnel in respect of the new Technology.t urged the Central and State Government to make available it to technicians the facilities at the Film & Television Institute of India and other State sponsored Institutes. It recognised the importance of short term courses and suggested that existing Institutes organise short refresher courses at fees which were within the slender means of film technicians.
——By Opender Chanana. (Copyrights reserved)
Mr. Chanana is an alumnus of Government College, Ludhiana-India. This premier institution completes t’s 100th year of establishment. He has been associated with Drama- and Cinema right since college days and was also awarded college color then.
Mr. Chanana makes Film Documentaries in Mumbai and his documentary ‘DE-Glamorising the Bollywood’ depicting poor plight of cine workers has been rewarded globally with 307 plus awards till date ,thus recognising issues raised by him.
Kudos to Opender Chanana for his relentless efforts for causes so dear to him.
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(The Views expressed in the Write-up are solely of Mr. Opender Chanana )