The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Models unite against harassment at work

Mumbai, March 26: If you are a fly-by-night fashion event organiser, you may soon have the pleasure of being dragged to court by Yana Gupta.

Ramp models in the country are forming a union for the first time to combat harassment at workplace. The union, tentatively called Models United, will come up with a charter of demands agreed upon by ramp-walkers across the country and take legal action, if necessary, against offenders.

The runway is not the best place to work, says Diandra Soares, a catwalk veteran who has done a stint on the Paris ramps (for which she had painted her hair pink).

“The union will look into getting cheques at the proper time and getting TDS certificates as well. Sometimes we are not paid at all. Sometimes a show for which we are booked doesn’t take place at all,” she says. The organiser helps himself to lakhs of rupees of unpaid fees per show.

“We will also ask for eight-hour days. Sometimes our days are too long,” adds Diandra, who has been involved in the project actively, though the initiative was taken by another model, Tinu Verghese.

“The need for such a union was always there,” says Tinu, adding that many models from all parts of the country have responded warmly to the idea. “There’s Sheetal Malhar, there’s Yana Gupta, there’s Viveka Babajee, there’s everybody,” she says. Jesse Randhawa, Vidisha Pavate and Dipannita Sharma have also joined the cause, as well as a number of newcomers.

The organisation will be registered very shortly, says Tinu, who worked for the past one-and-a-half months meeting models and seeking legal opinion. Models can enlist themselves by paying registration fees of Rs 2,500 per year per head, to cover the cost of legal battles.

The activities of the union are limited to live fashion shows, says Diandra. That’s what the union plans to monitor mainly.

“The union will see to it that before a show all terms and conditions pertaining to the show and involving models, choreographers and organisers are put in black and white. In case of the violation of a clause, we will file a suit,” warns Diandra.

“It is to show that we can present a united front and we are not merely a bitchy, selfish, I-me-myself community that we are made out to be,” says Dipannita.

Money is the biggest problem, the models agree. “It’s a very frequent problem. After a show is over, we have to keep calling the organisers endlessly for the money,” she grumbles.

Next is time. A top-bracket model may end up taking part in up to 12 live shows a month in “season-time” with the locations spread all over the country, sometimes abroad. Each show can take up three days with rehearsals, making life frantic. “We will ask choreographers to treat us better and reduce the time spent on every fashion shows. We will ask them to reduce that to two days,” says Dipannita.

“In India, we are paid by the number of events. Abroad, they are paid by the hour,” she adds, though refuses to disclose how much she earns per show. “Models are paid differently, according to one’s demand and seniority. A rookie may get Rs 5,000 per show.”

The demands, however, will be finalised after the organisation itself is, and it is seen that the clauses do not go against any member.

“Tinu started work on this when she drew up a memorandum to protest against the low fees paid to us during the annual India Fashion Week. The idea snowballed into this,” says Dipannita.

There are no male models yet in the union, but they are very welcome.

But will such a union be taken seriously' “They better. The shows can’t happen without models, can they'” Diandra shoots back.

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