Unions and Studios Reach Safety Deal, Production Starts Soon

Is Hollywood production really about to start back up again? It's looking that way, yes.

Hollywood unions have reached an agreement with the major studios on safety protocols that would allow them to get back to work right away. Just 3 and a half months after the unions issued their “Safe Way Forward” guidelines, this agreement marks a collaboration between the studios and unions. 

The agreement was signed by the Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Basic Crafts, and SAG-AFTRA with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers.

“Guiding principles include strictly enforced testing regimens and safety protocols, a zone-based system, and diligent use of personal protective equipment,” the unions said. “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.”

That's great news and hopefully lets people get their jobs back without great risk in their lives. 

The studios also released their own statement. 

“The health and safety of those who work in the motion picture and television industry is and remains our top priority. 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,” said AMPTP President Carol Lombardini.

“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,” she continued. “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.”

You can read more of her statement on Variety, but you get the picture. 

Obviously this is a lot. It marks a big step forward. 

Here are the headlines on the new deal: "All employees receive 10 days of COVID-19 paid sick leave, per producer. 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 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." 

There is a specialized “Zone” system, saying where you can walk and go based on proximity to cast, level of testing, PPE, and physical distancing. 

“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 3 times a week—for performers as well as those with whom they come into close contact, referred to as 'Zone A,'” the announcement said. “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.”

The deal covers everyone. The production office (“Zone C”), must be tested at a minimum of once every 2 weeks. Remote workers who do not work in the production environment (“Zone D”) will be tested prior to their first day of employment.

This all seems good? Production starting means that studios can buy more projects. With more projects to manage, hopefully, jobs come back. I'd love to see these kinds of deals jumpstart a real growth in the industry because things are not going according to plan now. 

Hollywood needs an economic boost. We all do. 

I'll close with AMPTP President Carol Lombardini's words, "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.”     

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3 Comments

Does the cost of unions impact how much it is to develop a professional motion picture? Curious if this has ever been quantified.

September 22, 2020 at 1:35PM

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Walter Wallace
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You mean the impact of paying everyone who works on a film a livable wage?

September 23, 2020 at 5:48AM

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“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.”

Who proofreads these releases before they're sent out? "Result" or "benefit" would have sounded much better in that context than "consequence", which is generally interpreted as some type of punishment or an otherwise negative or "bad thing".

I mean the studios do probably look at those as negatives, because it will cost them a lot of additional money, but isn't the idea to make this sound good and beneficial to all involved?

September 23, 2020 at 9:36PM, Edited September 23, 9:37PM

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