Cinematographers Guild Releases COVID-19 Protocols for Returning to Work

The group worries that ’safety’ could be used as a cloak for downsizing and ageism

The guild that represents cinematographers and camera crews, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 600, have released guidelines to ensure that its members can return to work without getting sick or being exploited as film, TV, and theater production come back to life during the pandemic.

At the heart of these new protocols, IATSE 600 is demanding that none of their crew members be asked to sign liability wavers in the wake of the coronavirus danger. As Deadline reports, the Guild’s Principles, Key Recommendations and Recommended Departmental Protocols states that, “no one should have to waive their rights or assume liability in order to go back to work.”

Safety guidelines issued Monday by the Industry-Wide Labor Management Safety Committee Task Force don’t address the liability question, despite the fact that many within the industry suspect that some employers will try to muscle casts and crews into signing such waivers.

The Guild also suggests, “The most effective and broad-based testing and screening must be put into place as part of any return to work protocols,” and that companies must, “employ a sufficient number of employees within the camera department, so that at least one person can be assigned the primary duty of cleaning and sanitizing the equipment and expendables utilized as necessary.”

To that end, the Guild specifically warns companies against using the pandemic as an excuse to artificially cut labor costs, writing, “Arbitrarily limiting the size of crews and attempting to combine jobs leads to inefficient, unsafe work practices and harms workers financially. Department heads and their crews, in collaboration with line producers, UPMs and assistant directors are still in the best position to manage the staffing needs and scheduling of their departments to achieve the quality and efficiency that we all desire.”

Another recommended change is that the historically health-shattering hours crews are expected to work should be addressed: “Limit the duration of workdays and excessive consecutive workdays whenever possible and extend rest periods whenever possible to ensure cast and crew remain healthy and receive adequate rest.”

Fearing that producers will also seek to cut their losses by replacing COVID-vulnerable older crew members with younger labor, the Guild is moving to nip that idea in the bud, insisting, “There cannot be discriminatory practices…under the guise of safety, e.g., ageism, sharing of medical information.”


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