UPDATED with highlights of the deal and quotes: Hollywood’s unions and management’s AMPTP finally have an agreement to return to work in the coronavirus era. Union sources say the deal took much longer to reach than they would have liked or expected.
The agreement means that the studios, networks, major companies and independent producers alike are cleared to resume production. The unions previously had adopted protocols called “Safe Way Forward” on June 12, and the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force had issued return-to-work protocols on June 1.
“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,” the unions said in a joint statement. “Guiding principles include strictly enforced testing regimens and safety protocols, a zone-based system, and diligent use of personal protective equipment (PPE).”
Carol Lombardini, president of the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers, called it a “hallmark agreement.” Here is her statement today:
The health and safety of those who work in the motion picture and television industry is and remains our top priority,” she said. “To ensure that employers are able to provide a safe and healthful workplace, the industry – including representatives from Amazon, Apple, CBS, Disney, HBO Max, NBC Universal, Netflix, Paramount, Sony and Warner Bros. – undertook four months of thoughtful dialogue and meaningful negotiations with the multi-union bargaining committee.
We are pleased to announce that this process today culminated in a science-based agreement among the Employers and the multi-union committee on return-to-work protocols for use in the coronavirus era. The hallmark of the agreement makes employee safety paramount, by introducing protocols for strict testing, cleaning and use of protective equipment. As a consequence of the agreement, the studios will be making a substantial investment in testing, redesigned workplaces, COVID-19 sick leave, quarantine pay and other safeguards designed to facilitate the safe resumption of production and enable the industry to recover and grow.
In addition, the Employers and the multi-union group have committed to ongoing discussions of these protocols, allowing the parties to examine the efficacy of their efforts as production resumes on a larger scale. The AMPTP wishes to express its appreciation not only to the unions, but to the hundreds of others who became involved in the return-to-work effort for their willingness to collaborate to resolve the difficult workplace issues presented by operating in a coronavirus world.
Here are the key highlights of the deal:
- 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.
Quarantine Pay & Sick Pay Sick Leave
- 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 3 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.
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. o 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.
“The new measures will be implemented by employers in order to minimize the risk of transmission,” the unions added. “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 DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts. This group worked with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers 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.”
Here are quotes about the deal from some of the union principals:
“Getting everyone safely back to sets and back to telling stories in these difficult times has been critical for all of us,” said DGA president Thomas Schlamme. “To overcome the challenges posed by our unique work, we collaborated with our friends at SAGAFTRA, 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.”
SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said that her 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.”
IATSE president Matthew Loeb 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 of the 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.”
Said Steve Dayan, Chairman of the Hollywood Basic Crafts Unions and secretary-treasurer, Teamsters Local 399: “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 4 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 six 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.”
SAG-AFTRA also issued a series of questions and answers recently that detailed four of the issues that had been outstanding, including: the policy for quarantine payment if a show shuts down because of a positive test; the policy if cast or crew members test positive at the studio prior to the job; compensation if quarantining is required by producers prior to the start of production; and how meal times will be handled and compensated.
Last month, leaders of the Art Directors Guild also told their members about some of the outstanding issues. “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.”