Commercial Producers Agree To Covid-19 Testing In New Pact With DGA, IATSE & Teamsters

A multi-union coalition of Hollywood unions has reached an agreement with the Association of Independent Commercial Producers for new return-to-work protocols that largely mirror those adopted by the film and TV industry in September. Testing for the coronavirus is one of the major changes in the new AICP agreement, and now brings testing on commercial shoots more in line with those used on film and TV productions. The AICP says its member companies account for 85% of all domestic commercials aired nationally

The AICP’s agreement with the DGA, IATSE and the Teamsters, which was reached after weeks of negotiations, includes new Covid-19 testing guidelines, paid Covid-19 sick leave, on-set Covid-19 compliance managers, and a system of “zones” to ensure that different sections of a production can be tightly controlled to protect actors and background performers while they’re not wearing masks during shoots.

SAG-AFTRA, however, is not a party to the agreement.

The agreement (read it here) says that producers and the unions “acknowledge that certain principles should guide those who are resuming work in the commercial industry with Covid-19 present in the community. In particular, advance planning, communication and training, adherence to sound cleaning and hygiene practices (addressing ventilation and reducing the touching of surfaces), maintaining appropriate physical distancing and the use of personal protective equipment will all contribute to the maintenance of a safe working environment.”

When it first promulgated its own protocols in May, the AICP eschewed on-set Covid-19 testing, opting instead for policies “to self-diagnose health symptoms” before each day’s work. “Currently, testing for active cases is not available on-site,” the AICP’s guidelines and recommendations said at the time. “In addition, testing (such as antibody testing and temperature-taking) are not reliable screening indicators — therefore, using symptomatic polling is the most reliable screening process.”

In July, hundreds of IATSE members petitioned their union leaders to press the AICP to adopt testing guidelines similar to those in use on film and television productions. In September, the AICP amended its protocols to provide for periodic temperature-taking to assure that workers were not sick before showing up for work, but still balked at adopting on-set Covid-19 testing of workers. The County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health requires testing on film and television productions, but exempted short-running productions like commercials from testing.

The new agreement says that the AICP and the unions “acknowledge that this Agreement is a temporary agreement, intended to last only during the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. The term of this Agreement shall commence on December 15, 2020, and extend to and include April 30, 2021. The provisions of this Agreement have been negotiated based on the present conditions, which include currently available scientific/medical information, current levels of infection, public health authorities’ current guidelines and recommendations and the current lack of a vaccine for COVID-19.”

They also agreed that the agreement could be terminated prior to April 30, 2021, or extended beyond April 30, 2021, “if warranted by the circumstances.”

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