Detroit Big Three, UAW Discussing Safety Protocols For Re-Opening U.S. Plants

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.

Rory Gamble

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.

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Source: Automotive News

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Sam McEachern: Sam loves to write and has a passion for auto racing, karting and performance driving of all types.

View Comments (7)

  • what is there to discuss? duck dynasty rejects across america have determined that everything should open up NOW!!! let's go already.

    • I am tired of people suffering and unemployment, let all businesses open, i am sick of this s***!

  • I'm pretty sure Michigan's shelter in place is only issued to the end of April. The Michigan house has already stated they will probably resist extending the order into May. The most recent data does suggest that the active number of cases in Michigan is close to, but has not yet plateaued ( https://www.michigan.gov/coronavirus/0,9753,7-406-98163_98173---,00.html). Personally, I think early May might be a week or two early, but I certainly understand if people disagree. I would strongly encourage those workers at a higher risk to wait an additional week or two.

  • Almost everyone between the ages of 20-45 can go back to work provided that they do not have any pre-existing condition that may make them vulnerable to COVID-19; everyone should be given a physical and if necessary be given a one-week dosage of the anti-malaria medication before starting work.

  • I work at a auto plant, I hope they follow all the above measures and some to keep employees safe on the job. I don’t want to get sick or die due to a virus the Trump A ministration wrote off as a joke in the first place only to take action too late that put us in the position we are in today. If your dead your unemployed anyway and if your the bread winner the family left behind is suffering, So STOP being So Selfish and Ignorant about the Situation - Test people so we all can be safe of each other life’s that way all of Us can get back to work.

  • Union asking for Employees taking off, stating they feel a little sick without losing pay, this got to be a joke. sooner or later GM and Ford will have to tell this union where they can go!! Michigan, Texas, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio all are right to work states. Its not that hard if all manufacturers stick together. (right to work states) you know what that means!!