2 Oct 2008

Actors join Bollywood strike

11:01 am on 2 October 2008

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

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

Meanwhile, film producers are reported to be meeting on Thursday to decide on their response.

"Employees sometimes work for as long as 30 hours at a stretch," says Dinesh Chaturvedi of the Federation of Western India Cine Employees.

"There have been serious health issues and even accidents. We have been writing to producers but it got us nowhere."

He said 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.

Reality shows hit hardest

The BBC's Prachi Pinglay in Mumbai says 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 dancing girls to carpenters, lighting technicians to cameramen, and soundmen to script writers.

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 says.

"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."