Market conditions and the need to deep-clean assembly operations have prompted North America’s Big Three automakers to shut down until the end of March. General Motors (GM) confirmed the commencement of a systematic and orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America. The suspension will last until at least March 30. Production status will be reevaluated week-to-week after that. Production at Ford’s US, Canadian and Mexican manufacturing facilities was halted after Thursday evening’s (March 19) shifts to March 30 to thoroughly clean and sanitize the company’s plants. Further, working with the UAW and listening to the concerns of its employees, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has also ceased production at its plants across North America, starting progressively from March 19 through the end of March. GM, Ford and FCA are forming a Coronavirus Task Force along with UAW to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies. GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford and President and CEO Jim Hackett, FCA CEO Michael Manley, and UAW President Rory Gamble, and are leading the task force. The three companies formed a similar task force in Canada.
“GM and the UAW have always put the health and safety of the people entering GM plants first, and we have agreed to a systematic, orderly suspension of production to aid in fighting COVID-19/coronavirus,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “We have been taking extraordinary precautions around the world to keep our plant environments safe and recent developments in North America make it clear this is the right thing to do now. I appreciate the teamwork of UAW President Rory Gamble, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes and local leadership as we take this unprecedented step.”
“UAW members, their families and our communities will benefit from today’s announcement with the certainty that we are doing all that we can to protect our health and safety during this pandemic,” said UAW President Rory Gamble. “This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease. We appreciate General Motors' actions today and will continue to work with them on health and safety plans to be implemented when we resume production.”
“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe – even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”
UAW and Ford leaders will work together in the coming weeks on plant restart plans as well as exploring additional protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus. Chief among them: finding ways to maximize social distancing among plant workers – both during work hours and at shift change, when large numbers of people typically gather at entry and exit points and maximizing cleaning times between shift changes.
In addition, Ford vehicle manufacturing sites in Cologne and Saarlouis in Germany, together with the Craiova facility in Romania, will temporarily halt production starting Thursday. Ford’s Valencia assembly and engine facility in Spain already temporarily halted production from Monday, after three workers were confirmed with coronavirus over the past weekend.
Commenting on its action, FCA CEO, Mike Manley said: “Working with the UAW, and having visited many of our plants yesterday, we need to ensure employees feel safe at work and that we are taking every step possible to protect them. We will continue to do what is right for our people through this period of uncertainty.”
Image by Vektor Kunst from Pixabay.