By David Robb
September 27, 2021 1:27pm

Hollywood’s Covid return-to-work protocols, which had been set to expire on Thursday — the day before IATSE members begin to vote to authorize a strike — have been extended to October 31, according to a management source. A union source, however, noted that only a “tacit agreement” to extend the protocols has been reached among the union signatories, and that no official announcement has been made yet.

Established in September 2020 by an agreement between the AMPTP and Hollywood’s unions – the DGA, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, the Teamsters and the Basic Crafts – the protocols had originally been set to expire on April 30, but were extended then with no major modifications, and contained all of the original agreement’s provisions, including strictly enforced testing regimens, physical distancing, Covid compliance officers, diligent use of personal protective equipment and a “Zone” system to ensure that different sections of productions are tightly controlled based on proximity to cast, who often can’t wear masks or maintain social distancing while working.

Covid vaccinations had by then become widely available, but could not be mandated by producers as a condition of employment until July 9, when the protocols were extended until September 10, and modified to give producers “the option to implement mandatory vaccination policies for casts and crew in Zone A on a production-by-production basis.” Zone A, where unmasked actors work, is the most restrictive of the safe work zones on sets.

See the protocols here.

Labor and management both agree that the protocols have enabled jobs and productions to rebound during the pandemic, while making film sets among the safest workplaces in America.

IATSE is currently asking its members for the authorization to call a strike against film and TV productions, but the protocols would lapse on struck productions because its provisions apply to all those employed under union contracts, including “all collective bargaining agreements that a producer has with the IATSE or an IATSE local union for motion picture production throughout North America.”

The union’s main film and television contracts – its Basic Agreement for shows shot in Los Angeles and its Area Standards Agreement covering shows filmed outside of L.A. – expired on Sept. 10, although the union has told its members that they should continue to work under its terms and conditions “until further notice.” If the union goes on strike, however, those terms – and the Covid protocols that are attached to them – will no longer be in effect.

The union’s pay TV contract, covering HBO, Showtime, Starz, Cinemax and BET, and its low-budget theatrical film contract, don’t expire until next year, so they wouldn’t be shut down by a strike, and their Covid protocols will remain in effect.

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