GM confirms coronavirus concerns shut down manufacturing until at least April

Andrew Cummings
March 19, 2020

Galhotra said the company will work with union leaders on plant restart plans and explore protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus.

Detroit's three automakers have agreed to partial factory shutdowns, deep cleaning of equipment and longer periods between shifts to head off union demands for USA plant closures due to the coronavirus threat. US Rep. Debbie Dingell said the work stoppage will hit the economy hard.

According to The Canadian Press, Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to close all of their factories. GM says its suspension will last until at least March 30 and will be re-evaluated on a week-to-week basis thereafter. "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", chief executive Mary Barra said in a statement.

At GM's pickup truck assembly plant in Flint, Mich., workers have been fearful ever since the virus surfaced in the USA, said Tommy Wolikow, a union member who delivers parts to the assembly line. "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". "By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community". GM employs about 3,600 hourly and 430 salaried workers at three plants in Ontario, which manufacture engines, transmissions and the Chevrolet Equinox SUV.

The suspension of operations at Ford will begin after the evening shifts on Thursday, March 19, while GM said it will close its facilities in a cadence being determined by manufacturing leadership. The company said a plant worker tested positive for the virus but had not been to work in over a week.

The companies' decisions reverse a deal worked out late Tuesday in which the automakers would cancel some shifts so they could thoroughly cleanse equipment and buildings, but keep factories open.

WXYZ also reported that a worker at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne had tested positive for COVID-19, along with an employee at FCA's Sterling Heights Assembly Plant.

"There's very few industries where you get this many people together and they all touch the same things", said Kristin Dziczek, vice-president of labour and manufacturing for the Center for Automotive Research, an industry think-tank in MI.

Analysts expect USA auto sales to take a nosedive as people stay home to avoid other people.

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