General Motors, Ford Motor Company, and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to suspend production at their U.S. Facilities. The plants are expected to remain closed at least through March 30. We will provide any further updates as they arise.
UAW TASKFORCE AND RESPONSE TO COVID-19
While bars and restaurants close for in-dining across Michigan, and the Federal Government struggles to come up with a plan of action, the Michigan auto industry announced the formation of a COVID-19/Coronavirus Task Force. The UAW has teamed up with the Big Three [FCA, GM, and Ford], to ensure that the appropriate response is taken in implementing extra protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at the three companies.
Leading the task force will be UAW President Rory Gamble, GM Chairman, and CEO Mary Barra, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford, Ford President, and CEO Jim Hackett and FCA CEO Michael Manley, and they will be working with medical staff, manufacturing and labor leadership teams at all three companies. The taskforce’s main priority going forward will be to protect all employees from the spreading Coronavirus.
In a joint statement, the CEOs shared, “This is a fluid and unprecedented situation, and the task force will move quickly to build on the wide-ranging preventive measures we have put in place. We are all coming together to help keep our workforces safe and healthy.”
Gamble, who convened the meeting of the Big Three leaders, also stated, “Workplace health and safety is a priority for us every day, all three companies have been taking steps to keep the COVID-19/coronavirus out of their facilities and during this national emergency, we will do even more working together. We are focused on doing the right thing for our people, their families, our communities, and the country. All options related to protecting against exposure to the virus are on the table.”
The plan of action for the automakers includes enhanced visitor screening at all facilities, increased cleaning and sanitizing in common areas and touchpoints, and implementing safety protocols for people with potential exposure, as well as those who exhibit flu-like symptoms. They will also focus on vehicle production plans, additional social distancing practices, break and cleaning schedules, health and safety education, health screening, food service, and any other areas that have the potential to improve protections for employees.
A message to UAW members from President Rory Gamble on the steps being taken to limit the spread of Coronavirus and keep members safe >>> https://t.co/Nwg3RvGnxe
— UAW (@UAW) March 13, 2020
The news comes as some FCA workers walked out in Warren over concerns regarding Coronavirus, a move that follows similar actions that took place at the Windsor Assembly Plant in Canada last week. While there has yet to be a response from the UAW regarding the American walkout, Canadian labor leaders from the Unifor labor union urged workers to stand down following their actions.
The walkouts come at a time when FCA has closed a majority of its European plants for two weeks amid the ongoing crisis, while Ford followed suit by shuttering its Valencia Engine Plant in Spain for a week. The Ford closure in Spain comes after three employees tested positive for COVID-19, who worked at the plant.
In a letter sent out to employees, Ford CEO Jim Hackett stated the automaker would shut down any facility for a day for deep cleaning and sanitization should any instance of a positive diagnosis occur. By forming the COVID-19/Coronavirus Task Force, the automakers will be better equipped to cooperate should any cases emerge in the plants.
UAW LEADERSHIP REQUESTS PLANT CLOSURE
New details emerged on March 17, after UAW President Rory Gamble sent a letter to the Big Three asking for them to shutter the plants for the safety of their workers.
“I want to be very transparent about what happened during our conversation Sunday with the Big 3. The UAW leadership, based on the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations on how to protect ourselves and our communities, requested a two-week shutdown of operations to safeguard our members, our families and our communities. Your UAW leadership feels very strongly, and argued very strongly, that this is the most responsible course of action,” Gamble shared in his letter. “The companies, however, were not willing to implement this request. They asked for 48 hours to put together plans to safeguard workers in their facilities. (Ford Motor Company has indicated this week that they are willing to rotate down shifts and are planning to shut down all European operations next week.)”
“I know these are very difficult days for all of us. Please know that my #1 priority, and the #1 priority of the entire UAW leadership, is the safety and well-being of our UAW family and our communities,” he later shared in the letter.
At the present moment, the UAW has not reached an agreement with the Big Three, and American plants are likely to remain open.
Expect to learn further updates on the matter as news evolves.