On July 24, the Art Directors Guild – IATSE Local 800 – released its own protocols “in the absence of an industry-wide agreement” with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, and in a letter to his members last week, Chuck Parker, the guild’s national executive director, said that “there is still no agreement.”
“We, the united joint-union side of this negotiation, are not slowing this process down,” he told his members. “There are critically important details that the Employer must take responsibility for: testing, supplying the necessary PPE, safe travel and scouting protocols, provisions for paid sick leave that incentivizes not coming to work when ill and symptomatic, everything that is involved in providing a safe working environment. It is you, the members of the IATSE, along with your brothers and sisters in the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts that are going to be risking their health, and the health of their families, by returning to work.
“The shareholders of the major conglomerates that own the studios sure won’t be on the set doing the work,” he added. “I am writing this because I am hearing some spin out there that it is, we, the unions, who are causing the delay. I am here to say that NOTHING could be further from the truth.”
In an accompanying letter, guild president Nelson Coates wrote: “The plain fact of the matter is the AMPTP as a body has a different concept of what constitutes ‘appropriate’ safety and testing. The AMPTP has tried to frame this as though all these other groups were the cause of the delay. Truth be told, the DGA/IATSE/SAG-AFTRA/Teamsters/Basic Crafts/ NYC Unions have never been so united on an issue and are holding fast to the need for frequently scheduled testing. We all are hoping for a resolution in the next few days.”
On Sunday, Teamsters Local 399 told its members that the companies and the unions “At this time we are still trying to finalize some of the remaining issues, however we are getting closer and hope to conclude soon.”
The ongoing discussions, it should be noted, are in addition to protocols contained in a “white paper” issued on June 1, by the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force, and the “Safe Way Forward” guidelines issued jointly by the unions on June 12.
Coates told his members that, in the days since those agreements were reached, “We all have had to reckon with the realization that the pandemic is not going away any time soon,” and that “we also have had to deal with the fact that negotiating with producers during a pandemic is in some ways building the plane as we are flying. And in the process, all who are not ‘in the room’ are more and more frustrated.”
In the meantime, he wrote, “many members have started back to work – some remotely, others with safety protocols which have been vetted by the IATSE. I am compelled to stress the importance of reporting your work and making sure the (guild’s) office can verify that safety protocols have been approved. Some members have already started work in areas where they have had to be travelled. Each instance has been vetted and approved by the IATSE. As production gears up in LA County, PLEASE take personal responsibility on and off the job to stay safe and follow protocols. We all need to be mindful of safety in the workplace, but especially now need to be mindful in the evenings and weekends. Our actions can impact the ability for lots of our friends and colleagues to work. Again, please report your work and stay safe.”