Although Hollywood’s Covid return-to-work protocols are set to expire on May 12, performers and background actors involved in intimate scenes – and those involving extreme physical exertion – will be allowed through July to request self-administered Covid testing of performers with whom they will be working in close or intimate contact.
That’s the latest word from SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who noted that this is part of the agreement reached Thursday with the Alliance of Motion Picture & Television Producers.
Thursday’s termination agreement with the companies only noted that “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.”
Today, however, Crabtree-Ireland gave the guild’s members a more detailed version of that provision:
“SAG-AFTRA and the AMPTP have reached an agreement on continued testing upon request for performers involved in intimate scenes and scenes involving extreme physical exertion to ensure their safety and well-being, continuing through July 31, 2023,” he explained. “For performers and background actors working in scenes involving close or intimate contact or extreme exertion, starting May 12, 2023, you will have the right to request Covid antigen self-administered testing of yourself and of other performers and background actors with whom you will be working in close or intimate contact.
“Those requests will need to be directed to a specified point of contact on the production team at least 24 hours in advance unless you are cast less than 24 hours in advance. The identity of the performer or background actor making the request will be kept confidential. The right to make these requests will continue until July 31, 2023, unless further extended.”
As previously reported, mandatory vaccinations as a condition of employment will end on May 12, except on those productions that as of May 11 already had established a mandatory vaccination policy in Zone A – the most restrictive work areas where unmasked actors work – for the duration of that production.
“Our members have benefitted from industry-leading and robust protections that ensured a safe and consistent production environment,” Crabtree-Ireland told his members, noting that the expiration of the protocols had been unanimously approved by the SAG-AFTRA President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Safety and by the guild’s Executive Committee.
First adopted in September 2020 per an agreement between the AMPTP and Hollywood’s unions, the protocols allowed productions to rebound after an industrywide lockdown early on in the pandemic and may have saved the lives of many industry workers.
As Crabtree-Ireland noted, the original agreement “was the result of cooperation and solidarity between the entertainment industry unions in collaboration with the employers. It has served its purpose of keeping our members safe and the industry working during an unprecedented global pandemic.”
In his message, Crabtree-Ireland also noted that “individual employers continue to be responsible for ensuring safe workplaces for their employees, but must seek separate agreement with or waivers from the applicable joint unions before implementing any Covid safety protocols.”
He also thanked SAG-AFTRA’s officers and the National Board “for their support, dedication and collective wisdom over the past three years of the pandemic and its aftermath,” as well as “the extraordinary staff of SAG-AFTRA and our partners in the other joint unions for their continuous hard work and dedication to safety.”
The other unions that took part in creating the protocols, and which agreed to letting it expire, were the DGA, IATSE, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Teamsters Local 399, IBEW Local 40, LiUNA! Local 724, OPCMIA Local 755 and UA Local 78.