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 paper1 delivered to state governments and agencies to examine the resumption of production.
A Few Key Highlights:
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.
Additional information about the guidelines can be found on the unions’ websites at: www.dga.org, www.sagaftra.org, www.iatse.net, www.teamster.org, and www.ht399.org.