OEMs React to Coronavirus
March 17, 2020—One of the biggest pieces of news coming from automakers has been the March 15 announcement of a massive plan for manufacturing and warehouse employees.
The plan involves The United Auto Workers union, General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler. A joint press release says that the task force will coordinate action to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes enhanced visitor screening, increased cleaning and sanitizing of common areas and touch points, and implementing safety protocols for people with potential exposure, as well as those who exhibit flu-like symptoms, according to the release.
Individually, automakers have posted various reactions to the disease outbreak, most often suspending travel, instituting work-from-home policies and minimizing potential spread.
A release from the office of CEO Mary Barra says that work-from-home policies have been enacted as of March 16, while employees in China have separate protocols in place.
“These are important steps to lower the probability of spreading the coronavirus to coworkers, families and communities and to relieve the burden on public resources,” the statement said. “It also helps conserve critical resources like cleaning crews, medical staff, and supplies so they can be deployed where they are most needed.”
Hyundai announced that it has taken work-from-home measures and suspended non-essential travel. Greater attention is being put on cleanliness and hygiene at its Alabama manufacturing plant.
The company released a brief statement on March 13, saying that a remote working policy was enacted due to the changing nature of the outbreak.
“In recent days, though, we concluded the issue has taken on a different dimension—and are continuing to act in real time to keep our people safe and help limit the spread of the virus in communities where we live and work.”
Nissan also announced a work-from-home protocol for those employees who are able.
“This action is out of an abundance of caution to help reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus and to allow us to redeploy resources for the employee populations who are unable to work remotely,” a press release said.
Full shutdowns were reported in FCA’s European production plants, particularly in Serbia, Poland and Italy. A two-week shutdown includes the plant that makes the Jeep Renegade and affects FCA Italy and Maserati, according to the Detroit Free Press. A Ford factory in Spain has also shut down, the same paper reported.
Volkswagen followed suit with its European plants on March 17.
While no auto plans have reported shutdown in the United States, union members are pushing back at the companies’ requests to keep working. WDRB reports that Ford is fighting a request for its Louisville plant to temporarily shut down to help halt the spread of the virus. A similar request was made at Ford’s Dearborn plant.
On March 17, Ford announced closures at its European plants.
Volkswagen has granted paid leave so that workers can make child care arrangements, the company told CNBC, though production is expected to continue.
According to Gallup, around 43 percent of U.S. employees have dabbled in working remotely or do so exclusively.