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The Motion Picture Editors Guild (Local 700) sent a memo to members on Friday, informing them of the revised and extended COVID-19 safety protocols agreement between studios and guilds, but in doing so, also acknowledging where negotiations fell short for its members.
“The joint unions/guilds were pushing (among other things) for increased testing in Zones C and D as a result of the surge of the Omicron variant. The AMPTP was unwilling to agree to additional testing without concessions that the unions were unwilling to agree to,” wrote Local 700 executive director Cathy Repola in the memo. The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to the AMPTP for comment.
The latest extension and changes to the agreement, reported by THR on Wednesday, will remain in effect until April 30. The previous time (last July) that the agreement was updated, it incorporated additions including vaccines and authorized producers to mandate vaccines in Zone A. There were no updates specific to Zones C or D. Guild members in postproduction fall into Zone D, a group that the agreement only requires to be tested pre-employment. However, numerous sources in Local 700 have asserted that this isn’t enough and want to see more frequent testing written into the agreement.
Local 700 was contacted for comment about the memo. “It’s unfortunate that testing was not increased for Zone D employees,” Repola responded in an email to THR. “There is no justifiable reason to not provide increased levels of safety measures for these workers. I am grateful that many studios have opted to provide more testing on their own and I wish all of the other studios and employers would follow their lead.”
According to her memo to Local 700 members, “most of the major studios and some independent companies have already been providing increased testing in these zones. Some of that occurred as a result of the IATSE and Local 700 advocating for this. We applaud these employers who have been willing to do the right thing in acting to protect our members.”
“But since not all are, if you are working on-site and are in a situation you feel is unsafe, have co-workers who tested positive without the company taking appropriate action, or are dealing with other unfavorable circumstances, first advise your employer you feel you are in an unsafe environment and request employer provided testing,” the memo reads, adding that if members’ concerns are not adequately addressed they should contact the Guild.
Repola wrote, “While we hope this long-lasting pandemic is waning, we must be diligent in protecting the health and safety of the membership who are reporting to work at work sites. We are here to help.”
The previous version of the return-to-work agreement was set to expire on Feb. 13, when negotiations for the extension and update had not concluded.
Modifications made to the latest agreement include incorporating boosters into the definition of what it means to be “fully vaccinated” or “up to date” on vaccines in the United States, a change that will go into effect March 15. The agreement additionally restores workers’ “bank” of COVID-19 paid sick leave on ongoing productions to 10 days if they have already taken several days of that PTO on those productions (previously, a worker was limited to a maximum of 10 paid sick days). The agreement adds two new vaccinations to its approved list and more use of antigen tests, while “upgraded mask requirements, including KN95, KF94 or N95 masks provided by the employer,” are now part of the update.
This latest extension arrives as COVID case numbers in Los Angeles County are falling and the county made changes to its outdoor masking rules.
Katie Kilkenny contributed to this report.
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