Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Hollywood to End COVID-19 Safety Agreement That Enabled Pandemic-Era Return to Work

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The COVID-19 guidelines that for the past three years kept casts and crews safe during production amid the pandemic will expire on May 12.

The current iteration of the pact, negotiated by industry unions and top studios and streaming companies represented by the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), will remain in place through May 11. After that point, the agreement will expire, the AMPTP announced on Thursday, with entertainment unions confirming the news later in the day. The Hollywood Reporter reported on the pact’s likely end early on Thursday.

“For the past three years, workers throughout the entertainment community have benefited from our robust protections exceeding the practices of many other industries,” a coalition of unions including the Directors Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA said in a statement. “With the public health emergency now ending and the expiration of the COVID-19 Safety Agreement, individual employers continue to be responsible for ensuring safe workplaces for their employees, but must seek separate agreement with the applicable joint unions before implementing any COVID safety protocols.”

Even after the agreement expires, workers on film and television productions will still be able to use a bank of five temporary COVID-19 paid leave sick days between April 2 and December 31 if they contract COVID or if another covered COVID event occurs.

The decision also appears to end any vaccine mandates on new productions starting up after May 12. “Any production which has implemented a mandatory vaccination policy for employees in Zone A prior to May 12, 2023 may continue to apply that mandatory vaccination policy for the remainder of the production (or season, in the case of a series),” the AMPTP said in its statement.

Still, COVID-19 testing will still occur in specific cases involving scenes of intimacy, the unions noted in their joint statement. “SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP have reached an understanding on a testing system for performers involved in intimate scenes to ensure their safety and well-being,” the unions stated. No further detail was available as of press time.

Both parties note that the last day of the agreement will correspond with the planned date when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will end the federal COVID-19 public health emergency.

The AMPTP has periodically updated and extended these safety protocols with The Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the Teamsters and Basic Crafts unions since the agreement was first put in place in September 2020. The current version of the agreement was set to expire on April 1, but rather than extend or revise the agreement — which stakeholders had done on several occasions during the past few years — the parties decided to end it.

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