March 18 (UPI) — The “big three” U.S. automakers have agreed to “rotating” partial shutdowns at their plants to protect workers from the coronavirus, the United Auto Workers union said.
Fiat Chrysler, Ford and General Motors spent several days working toward an agreement with UAW after the union urged the auto giants to devise a plan to safeguard workers’ health.
“All three companies have agreed to new measures that will increase adherence to CDC recommendations on social distancing in the workplace,” the UAW said in a statement late Tuesday. “Most importantly, all three companies have agreed to review and implement the rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility and equipment between shifts, extended periods between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact.”
Specific details for each of the automakers’ plans will be announced in the coming days. The union said each company will implement new shifts in accordance with health guidelines that are intended to stem the spread of the virus.
The deal came after GM said an employee at its Cole Engineering Center in Warren, Mich., a Detroit suburb, tested positive for the coronavirus disease.
“We have … put our emergency response plan into action,” GM said, “building on the preventive measures we have already taken, which include directing employees at the Cole Technical Center and other sites to work remotely if possible.”
“The health and safety of our workforce is our top priority,” said Ford spokeswoman Kelli Felker.
The agreement required separate negotiations because the automakers didn’t want to openly discuss their shift strategies.
In Europe this week, Volkswagen, Daimler and Ford have also suspended work at some of their factories. Tesla’s auto plant in Fremont, Calif., has so far kept its 10,000 workers on the job amid lockdowns in six San Francisco Bay Area counties.