Studios, Unions Announce Expiration of COVID-19 Restrictions

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LOS ANGELES—Two years after COVID-19 pandemic began having a major impact on TV and film production, the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) and unions have announced that COVID-19 Safety Agreement and its related protocols will expire on May 11, 2023. 

This is the same date the Biden administration plans to let the coronavirus public health emergency expire.

The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA), the Directors Guild of America (DGA), International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) and the Hollywood Basic Crafts, (Teamsters Local 399, IBEW Local 40, LiUNA! Local 724, OPCMIA Local 755 and UA Local 78), confirmed the expiration after an earlier statement was issued by AMPTP. 

“The Return to Work Agreement, set to expire on April 1, 2023, will now continue to remain in effect through May 11, 2023,” explained the AMPTP, which represents the studios. “As of May 12, 2023, the Return to Work Agreement will terminate.”

“All employees shall have a total of five (5) days of temporary COVID-19 paid sick leave per Producer, which may be used during the period beginning April 2, 2023 and ending on December 31, 2023, to cover one or more Eligible COVID-19 Events,” the AMPTP said. “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).”

“First enacted in September 2020 after a months-long production shutdown, the COVID-19 Safety Agreement is the outcome of unprecedented coordination and solidarity between the unions and collaboration with employers,” the unions said. “The agreement, reflecting science-based protocols, transformed creative workers as one of the nation’s first industries returning to work safely.”

The unions also noted that the transition includes the following conditions:

  • Grandfathering: Projects in production before May 11, 2023, which had already established a mandatory vaccination policy in Zone A, may keep that policy for the duration of that production. For episodic projects, this applies only to the season in production before May 11, and not for subsequent seasons.
  • Intimate Photography: 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.
  • Additional Paid COVID -19 Sick Days: The unions have secured an additional five paid COVID-19 sick days for all employees through the end of the year.

"For the past three years, workers throughout the entertainment community have benefited from our robust protections exceeding the practices of many other industries," the unions said. "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."

George Winslow

George Winslow is the senior content producer for TV Tech. He has written about the television, media and technology industries for nearly 30 years for such publications as Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and TV Tech. Over the years, he has edited a number of magazines, including Multichannel News International and World Screen, and moderated panels at such major industry events as NAB and MIP TV. He has published two books and dozens of encyclopedia articles on such subjects as the media, New York City history and economics.