Hollywood Unions Reach Deal With Studios Over Coronavirus Safety Protocols

Hollywood unions and major studios have finally come to an agreement on the safety protocols for film and TV productions hoping to restart amid the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. After three and a half months of negotiations, the Hollywood coronavirus safety protocols were announced that would allow the industry to safely resume production.

More than three months after Hollywood unions issued their "Safe Way Forward" guidelines following a June "white paper" by the Industry-Wide Labor-Management Safety Committee Task Force, unions and studios have reached a deal on coronavirus safety protocols that will be in place for film and TV productions looking to restart, Variety reports. The unions, which include the Directors Guild of America, International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Basic Crafts, and SAG-AFTRA said in a statement:

"Guiding principles include strictly enforced testing regimens and safety protocols, a zone-based system, and diligent use of personal protective equipment. 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."

Added the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers 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. 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."

Key highlights of the protocols include regular mandatory testing for COVID-19 for cast and crew, before the first day of work and over the course of the production, as well as implementation of a specialized "Zone" system limiting proximity to cast, PPE and physical distancing rules. The announcement said:

"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."

The "Zone" system is especially notable considering the production of The Batman was temporarily halted due to star Robert Pattinson reportedly testing positive for coronavirus. Cast and crew in proximity to Pattinson were forced to quarantine for two weeks. In the aftermath of that, the issue of quarantine pay and sick pay, which was reportedly one of the toughest sticking points, was also resolved, with employees set to receive 10 days of coronavirus paid sick leave.

This announcement comes after months of negotiations and updates following the appointment of Contagion director Steven Soderbergh in April to head up DGA efforts to develop the protocols. While several productions have restarted overseas, we can probably expect more to follow domestically in the near future with the announcement of these new protocols.