Covid-19: CPA calls for relaxation of industry agreements

The CPA circulated the following request to crew late last week in the wake of the Covid-19 restrictions

We write to update you on developments since our last correspondence of Friday.

Government restrictions have been implemented far more quickly than we anticipated however this is a good thing as these measures are clearly needed to restrict the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa. We encourage everyone not to panic but rather to work together to create greater awareness, take the necessary precautions and find solutions that will limit long-term damage to our industry.

As you know, some jobs have already been cancelled while others have been postponed. While some companies have indicated that they will be scaling back on all work, most CPA members want to continue working where possible. They will do this in line with Government recommendations and will provide the necessary facilities on set to limit the spread of the virus. It will, however, be up to each individual to make a choice, based on their own unique circumstances, about whether to make themselves available for work or not.

If crew do decide to make themselves available to work, we request that they advise the production company booking them if they have recently travelled to a high-risk country (China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Germany, UK, Switzerland, Austria, the USA etc), if they have recently been in touch with any person who has tested positive for Covid-19 or if they have had any flu-like symptoms that are consistent with those common to Covid-19 – a dry cough, a sore throat, a high fever, shortness of breath etc.  While this may keep some crew members out of work, it is vitally important that each person take personal responsibility for ensuring that they do not spread Covid-19 to others on set or in wider society.
In our mail of last Friday we noted that production companies would individually advise you of the client’s cancellation / postponement policy based on the insurance restrictions applicable.  While this is the protocol going forward there are unfortunately some jobs which were confirmed weeks ago (before Covid-19 arrived in SA) where the clients were not aware of the implications and may now be reticent to pay for cancellation or postponement as they are not insured. On this limited number of jobs the companies concerned may ask you to waive cancellation fees on crew who have not yet worked and we ask you to consider this bearing in mind that 1) this is an unprecedented situation that no one could have predicted, 2) the cancellation has not occurred due to the fault of any party and, 3) every party will loose out financially as a result of the cancellation.
Going forward and where possible we would prefer for clients to postpone jobs rather than to cancel them as this will ensure that all suppliers in the chain are able to pick up work that would otherwise not have gone into production. This is important as we need to ensure crew are able to keep working to mitigate the potential economic impact of Covid-19. Please bear in mind that it may be less complicated and expensive for a client to cancel a production than to reschedule it. In order to promote “postponement over cancellation” we do need to ask you for some flexibility around the “postponement clause”  as the difficulty is that production companies may not be able to confirm within 30 days of the new shoot dates due to the uncertainty around Covid-19.
We propose the following interim arrangements which will be reviewed in mid-April:
1. We work together to promote “postponement over cancellation” to agencies and clients until this crisis has passed
2. We recognise that some clients may want to proceed but may not want to assume the risk of cancellation and/or postponement costs. Each crew member is able to accept or decline a job put forward on this basis without fear of recrimination.
3. We recognise that, in the event of postponement, agencies may not be able to put firm dates forward within a 30 day period.  We extend this to enable the shoot to go ahead within 6 months of the cancellation date.  If the commercial does not go ahead in this period, then full cancellation fees will be due.
4. Where possible, we encourage clients to pay cancellation fees now and then off-set this amount against crew’s earnings when the job is concluded.
We will leave it to each production company to discuss their specific requirements with you and we will encourage our members to motivate strongly for payment from clients, where applicable.  Production companies will also advise agencies and clients on concessions with regard to postponement on a job-by-job basis.  It is important for us to understand that there is concern in some quarters that people who may contract Covid-19 on set may try to hold clients responsible and claim financial settlements from them and this is currently acting as a deterrent. Clients also risk damage to their brands if they are seeing to be acting in a way that endangers the lives of vulnerable people – please bear in mind that many commercials may involve people who may be economically disadvantaged, disabled, have compromised immune systems etc so we need to be mindful of this and not simply see cancellation or postponement as an irritation to ourselves.
The CPA is not attempting to “change the rules” or set a precedent however we do need to recognise that advertisers and agencies also have concerns that we need to be sensitive to.  Some clients and agencies have made calls recently to postpone or cancel jobs that would have been irresponsible to proceed with – while this may be inconvenient and disappointing for us, we cannot fault their reasoning or their decision to act responsibly. We ask that agents and crew help us to meet clients halfway so that we can ensure the industry is able to continue – this is of vital importance to all suppliers in the chain.
The CPA and our members are very cognizant of the negative impact the fall off in work will have on our freelance crew base and all of our suppliers so we would like to find a way forward that works for everyone and keeps the wheels of our industry turning.
We hope we can rely on your support?