Hollywood studios and unions agree to terms over pandemic sick pay and safety rules

A production meeting using COVID-19 safety measures on the set of "The Card Counter" in Biloxi, Miss.
A shot of a production meeting using COVID-19 social distancing safety measures on the set of “The Card Counter” in Biloxi, Miss.
(Ryan McCormick)

Hollywood studios and entertainment unions have agreed to a new set of safety protocols and pay for TV and film crew should they become infected with the coronavirus while working.

Under the deal, all union employees will receive 10 days of COVID-19 paid sick leave, per production, which can be used for time for testing, or self-isolation or if a family member tests positive. The agreement ensures those who go on COVID-19 sick leave will be reinstated once they are cleared to return to work, alleviating any concerns among some crew that they may lose work if they reveal they have tested positive.

Employers will also be responsible for “quarantine pay” if productions or local laws require them to quarantine or isolate.

The agreement announced Monday is based on a paper called the Safe Way Forward, created in June by entertainment industry unions the Directors Guild of America, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

The sides have been trying to agree to a range of safety protocols that includes testing on sets and protection equipment as well as provisions for sick pay linked to the pandemic. The terms will run until April 30, 2021.


“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,” IATSE International President Matthew Loeb said in a statement.

Director Paul Schrader needed five days to finish shooting “The Card Counter.” Plus a shave for Oscar Isaac, who stars with Tiffany Haddish. How he did it.

Sept. 11, 2020

The agreement with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers, or AMPTP, will facilitate the return to work for cast and crew as states have given the go ahead for film productions.

While L.A. County has been issuing film permits since June 15, most of the productions have been short-duration commercial shoots that are exempt from many of the unions’ safety protocols such as testing. Most large productions have been slow to restart. Some like Warner Bros’ “The Batman” were interrupted by positive cases on set.

“Getting everyone safely back to sets and back to telling stories in these difficult times has been critical for all of us,” said Thomas Schlamme of the DGA, which selected “Contagion” filmmaker Steven Soderbergh to spearhead its efforts to develop back-to-work arrangements. “It has been a long and complicated journey.”

John Nolan, an assistant director who died last week after a battle with COVID-19, worked on a commercial shoot in Texas.

Sept. 1, 2020


The agreement also stipulates that all cast and crew on unionized productions will be tested for the virus before their first day of work to ensure they are not actively infected with the novel coronavirus. And they will continue to be tested during the course of the production. Rapid and lab-based tests are allowed although the unions said they would not accept antigen or antibody tests.

Actors who are most at risk need to be tested at least three times a week. Those not on sets and in production offices will be tested every two weeks.

The productions will appoint COVID-19 compliance supervisors who will be able to pause productions and even recommend discipline or termination for violations of COVID-19 health and safety protocols. They will receive stipends during any training necessary.

Additionally, productions will create zones to create physical distance and separate those crew that are more at risk and tested more frequently than those who are able to remain masked during production.