The unions representing casts and crews today announced they have reached an agreement with the major studios on protocols to allow the industry to safely re-open. The protocols pave the way for creative workers, who have been hard hit by the pandemic, to resume their crafts and livelihoods in workplaces redesigned around their health. Guiding principles include strictly enforced testing regimens and safety protocols, a zone-based system, and diligent use of personal protective equipment (PPE). The new measures will be implemented by employers in order to minimize the risk of transmission. To ensure workers’ livelihoods are not burdened with added uncertainty during the pandemic, the agreement also includes COVID-19 sick leave and quarantine pay.
The agreement is the outcome of unprecedented coordination and solidarity between the Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the Basic Crafts, and Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA). This group worked with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) for months to develop science-based protocols to minimize the risk of transmission, designed with the unique work environments of film and television production in mind.
The new guidelines are based on “The Safe Way Forward” report released by the unions in June, and developed in consultation with leading epidemiologists and experts; as well as the preceding industry white paper delivered to state governments and agencies to examine the resumption of production. The white paper was developed by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force consisting of the unions named here, together with the AMPTP.
Key highlights include:
- Comprehensive, Mandatory Testing Regimens
- Every member of the cast and crew will be tested before their first day of work to ensure they are not actively infected with the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
- Cast and crew members in the production environment will subsequently undergo a regular testing protocol during the course of their work on the production.
- Lab-based PCR tests, the gold standards of COVID-19 testing accuracy, or rapid PCR tests used in conjunction with lab-based PCR tests, will be allowed. Antigen and antibody tests are not acceptable.
- Testing Frequency & The Zone System
- In order to ensure the different sections of the production environment are tightly controlled, the agreement requires the implementation of a specialized “Zone” system laying out barriers within which those on set can flow based on proximity to cast, level of testing, PPE and the extent to which physical distancing can be observed in the performance of their work.
- Given that performers are uniquely vulnerable because they are not able to utilize PPE and physical distancing when cameras are rolling, the agreement requires more frequent testing — of at least three times a week — for performers as well as those with whom they come into close contact, referred to as “Zone A.”
- All other individuals in the production environment will utilize physical distancing and PPE at all times. Those who work on set, but not when performers are present without PPE (“Zone B”), must be tested at a minimum of once a week.
- Workers in production areas other than the set, such as the production office (“Zone C”), must be tested at a minimum of once every two weeks.
- Remote workers associated with the production, but not working in the production environment (“Zone D”), will be tested prior to their first day of employment.
- Dedicated COVID-19 Safety Monitoring & Enforcement
- Each production will have a designated COVID-19 compliance supervisor responsible for safety compliance and enforcement, who will be accessible to cast and crew at all times during working hours. To ensure that safety protocols are being followed, the compliance supervisor or a member of their COVID-19 compliance team with training and authority will be physically present on the production from crew call to wrap. The production may hire additional people to work under the compliance supervisor to assist in carrying out the safety duties.
- Quarantine Pay & Sick Pay
- All employees will receive 10 days of COVID-19 paid sick leave, per producer. The leave can be used for any of the eligible COVID-19 events (e.g. testing positive, exhibiting symptoms, isolation or self-quarantines, or when a member of their household tests positive for COVID-19).
- Employees who go on COVID-19 sick leave will be reinstated once they have been cleared to return to work, so long as their position continues to exist.
- With certain limited exceptions, employees who are required to quarantine or isolate at the request of an employer, or as required by local law, will receive quarantine pay.
Thomas Schlamme, President, Directors Guild of America said, “Getting everyone safely back to sets and back to telling stories in these difficult times has been critical for all of us. To overcome the challenges posed by our unique work, we collaborated with our friends at SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters, together with the Producers, to develop a comprehensive set of standards that will allow production to resume while minimizing the risk we, our families and our communities face during this pandemic. It has been a long and complicated journey, and none of it would have been possible without the collaboration and solidarity of our sister guilds and unions. At the DGA, we are forever indebted to the tireless efforts, perseverance and expertise of Steven Soderbergh, Paris Barclay and our entire COVID-19 Return to Work Committee, together with our National Executive Director Russell Hollander. We look forward to getting back to work and once again focusing our talents on telling stories for the world.”
Gabrielle Carteris, President, Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists said, “SAG-AFTRA members, along with their peers in other entertainment unions, are anxious to get back to work, but safety has to be the highest priority. This agreement establishes sensible, science-based protocols that allow members to return to doing the work they love while managing risk. I am grateful to our sister unions, who pulled together during this extended crisis, as well as to the studios for collaborating on this important issue.”
Matthew D. Loeb, International President, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees said, “Though this process was not easy, unprecedented inter-union collaboration and unwavering solidarity enabled our unions to achieve strong COVID-19 protections that will translate into tangibly safer workplaces.”
Thomas J. O’Donnell, Director, Teamsters Motion Picture & Theatrical Trade Division said, “At long last, I’m confident that these protocols, as rigid and thoughtful as those of any industry in America, will keep crew and cast safe as well as the communities they live and work in. I thank our fellow Film Unions for all their hard work and unprecedented solidarity. I also commend the Major Producers for doing the right thing by their employees in extraordinarily challenging times.”
Steve Dayan, Chairman of the Hollywood Basic Crafts Unions Secretary-Treasurer, Teamsters Local 399 said, “These joint discussions with our sister guilds and unions to develop Return to Work Protocols with the AMPTP have been truly historic. Together we have carefully reviewed the roles of every crew member involved in production and have fought hard to protect each craft and classification as if they were our own members. We not only shared a common goal of health and safety on the job, but also the preservation of all jobs throughout our Industry in this new COVID-19 world. On behalf of the Basic Crafts and all Teamster Locals in the 13 Western States, we are grateful for this collaborative effort and for the solidarity exhibited throughout the entirety of this process. After 6 months of addressing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on our members, we are ready to support them in their safe return to work and we will continue to advocate for their health and safety every step of the way.”