The Detroit Big Three and the United Auto Workers are currently discussing safety measures they must take to protect workers from COVID-19 once their respective assembly plants are able to re-open.
General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford are looking to restart some of their U.S. assembly lines in early May. The three automakers are in talks with the UAW to put a deal in place that would allow them to produce vehicles while also protecting workers from contracting COVID-19.
UAW president Rory Gamble has said the companies must supply adequate testing to employees and “create an environment where workers are comfortable to self-report symptoms and self-quarantine, without penalty.” He also wants UAW members to be able to self-quarantine without losing pay, as workers may not be willing to report symptoms if they believe they will lose their paycheque as a result.
In addition, the UAW wants automakers to provide adequate PPE to its workers if they return, such as face masks. GM is producing millions of face masks at its Warren Transmission plant in Michigan, which are currently being sent to hospitals and to UAW employees producing ventilators at its Kokomo, Indiana components plant.
Other protocols that may be put in place to protect workers include checking their temperatures when they arrive on-site, having them fill out daily health questionnaires and providing special wristbands that vibrate when workers get too close to one another. Automakers will also frequently sanitize workstations and employee common areas, such as lunchrooms.
The Big Three are eager to restart their production lines after losing billions during the COVID-19 shutdown, but Gamble said they must not restart production lines too soon, as this could only prolong the pandemic and, in turn, further their losses.
“If this is going to work, we need to do this right. And importantly the return to work date should be dictated by the science of the contagion curve, not economic factors,” Gamble said in a statement. “If we do this wrong, we all only have a prolonged economic hardship.”
The Big Three previously formed a COVID-19 task force to discuss best practices for keeping workers safe amid the pandemic. In a statement sent to Automotive News, GM spokesman Jim Cain said “there will be one industry solution,” for keeping workers safe, with all automakers implementing similar safety protocols at their assembly plants.
“We all share the same interest in sharing perspective,” Cain added.
Ford and FCA are looking at restarting certain production lines by May 4, according to AN, though some lines are not expected to start back up until late May. It is not yet clear when GM may restart its lines, though it is likely looking at a similar timeframe.
Source: Automotive News