EXCLUSIVE: As production rebounds despite the continuing impact of the pandemic, SAG-AFTRA members earned a record-setting $1.5 billion during the first four months of 2021 — “the highest amount ever for a comparable period,” the union told Deadline. “During the same period, SAG-AFTRA-covered jobs totaled 319,000, which is also a record high for the time period.”
The rebound is remarkable considering that the entertainment industry had ground to a complete standstill at the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 – a lockdown that continued into summer last year until the first set of industry-wide protocols were adopted to allow casts and crews to return to work safely.
SAG-AFTRA noted that this turnaround “was enabled by the return-to-work protocols, and was fueled by the gains made in last year’s TV/Theatrical contract, the ongoing commercials recapture campaign, and robust market demand for streaming entertainment and advertising.”
“We’re very pleased that the Covid safety protocols that we worked so hard with our sister unions to complete have enabled the industry to rebound,” Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA’s national executive director, said following the union’s national board meeting Saturday. “It also emphasizes the importance of remaining vigilant and not becoming complacent about the virus because it is those very protections that will allow our members to continue to work in the pandemic environment.”
Union officials have observed that the industry’s original return-to-work protocols, which were updated in September, helped make film sets among the safest places to work in America during the pandemic. Those protocols include strictly enforced testing regimens, physical distancing, Covid-19 compliance officers, the diligent use of masks and other personal protective equipment and a “Zone” system to ensure that different sections of a production are tightly controlled based on proximity to cast, who often can’t wear masks or maintain social distancing while working.
Last week, Hollywood’s unions and the major companies agreed to allow producers to require Covid-19 vaccinations on a production-by-production basis for those who work in Zone A, the most restrictive of the safe zones on sets where unmasked actors work.
SAG-AFTRA last month cleared the way for mandatory vaccinations, on a limited basis, when its board approved strict guidelines for producers who wish to make them a condition of employment. Those guidelines state that:
1. Production must announce such policies as soon as possible, preferably in initial breakdowns or earliest casting discussions.
2. Such policies must apply equally to all cast and crew working in the relevant zone(s) or work location(s).
3. Production must have procedures in place to engage in interactive process with those requesting ADA (Americans with Disability Act) or religious accommodations, and must include the procedure for initiating a request in notices of the vaccination policy.
4. Such policies can only be enforced when vaccines have been readily available to performers for a sufficient period of time to confer immunity in time for start of work.
5. If being vaccinated as a condition of employment for the production, any vaccination costs are absorbed by employer and vaccination time is work time.
6. Vaccination records are maintained securely by employers and available only to those with need to know.
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