Ford, General Motors (GM), and Fiat Chrysler announced plans on Wednesday to close all factories in the United States to protect workers from possible coronavirus infection.
Ford executives said their U.S. plants will shut down from March 19 to March 30 while GM executives said their U.S. plants would close at least through March 30. said it will begin a “systematic orderly suspension” of production through at least March 30.
The decisions come after the nation’s three largest automakers entered negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW) to determine how best to deal with the coronavirus crisis. UAW leaders said in a statement that U.S. plant closures will be implemented on a “rotating partial shutdown” policy that distances American workers from each other and prevents large groups from working the same shifts.
“We spent hours tonight in talks with the leadership of the Big 3, demanding that they do the right thing for our members,” UAW leaders said. “All three companies have agreed to new measures that will increase adherence to CDC recommendations on social distancing in the workplace.”
“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,” they continued. “They will be working on shift rotation to minimize risk. The companies have also agreed to work with us in Washington, D.C., on behalf of our members as we manage the disruption in the industry.”
“It’s not just going to be bars and the restaurants and the movie theatres, it’s going to be a lot more. Anything that you can’t do from your home is going to stop being done in America,” Carney said.
Ford executives said in its statement that it will work with the UAW in the coming weeks on plans to restart factories, as well as exploring more procedures to prevent the virus from spreading. The union has been pushing for factories to close because workers are fearful of coming into contact with the virus.
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. But workers, especially at some Fiat Chrysler factories, were still fearful and were pressuring the union to seek full closures.
The move by General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford will idle about 150,000 American auto workers. They likely will receive supplemental pay in addition to state unemployment benefits. The two checks combined will about equal what the workers normally make.