Hollywood Labor Unions & Management Finalize Return-To-Work Agreement

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.

Here are quotes from some of the 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.”

The unions say that “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 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.”

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.

Art Directors Guild Leaders Say AMPTP To Blame For Delay In Getting Back To Work

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.”

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