Over 5 million people working in the audio-visual industry have some good news in store. The labour ministry is reportedly working on a new legislation that will formalise the $20-billion media and entertainment industry, estimated to be growing in the range of 11-12 per cent.
According to The Economic Times, the new legislation will supersede the Cine-Workers and the Cinema Theatre Workers (Regulation of Employment) Act of 1981. At present the workforce covered under the Act is limited to those employed "in connection with the production of a feature film" and those involved in cinema theatre and cinematographic films - all of whom are paid in cash.
But this narrow definition of cine workers meant that a vast number of other workers involved in documentary film-making or other audio-visual productions were ignored. In fact, most of the semi-skilled or unskilled workforce in the audio-visual industry reportedly work as daily wage earners without any agreement and are thus deprived of many worker benefits, including minimum wages in some cases.
Citing a senior government official, the daily added that the idea of replacing cine workers with audio-visual production has been done keeping in mind the changing face of the industry, which is now working in multi-dimension.
"Idea is that nobody, whether skilled or unskilled, involved in any kind of audio-visual production should be deprived of minimum working conditions considering the nature of the industry and work involved," said the source.
Hence, the draft labour code prepared by the ministry reportedly covers everything from occupational safety to health and working conditions in order to regulate the employment of persons engaged/employed directly or indirectly - including through contractors - in or in connection with production of audio-visual programmes. By doing so, the government hopes to ensure nobody is left out of the system.
If things go to plan, artists, technicians, managers, skilled and unskilled workers across the whole spectrum of the entertainment industry will soon be eligible for appointments with written contracts. What's more they will all enjoy minimum wages, safe working conditions, health benefits and salaries paid electronically.
The industry has given a big thumbs up to the move. As Ravi Kottarakara, secretary of Film Federation of India, put it, "Film industry is on its way to getting organised and a comprehensive legislation of such a kind will help us to formalise our workforce".