Following an order from Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer to “stay home” to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the streets of Detroit were strangely empty.
Detroit Free Press
Ford Motor Co. confirmed on Sunday that it plans to recall a select team of workers to begin preparing its factories for the reopening on Monday, although UAW members express concern over their safety during a pandemic.
Its factories, along with all of the Detroit Three assembly lines, have been shutdown since late March to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.
“We are asking a small number of hourly workers and salaried workers to return to work this week with a view to restarting at a later date, which has not yet been determined. These workers will begin to put in place security protocols that we will use when we reopen our facilities, “said Kelli Felker, global director of manufacturing and communications at Ford.
Recalls have “voluntary” status, which means workers are paid if they choose to work but are not required to work. Ford declined to specify which sites were recalling workers.
An UAW member who paints F-150 pickups at the Dearborn truck plant and asked not to be identified because he is not allowed to speak publicly told Free Press: “A The major concern is the nature of the coronavirus and its propensity to be highly contagious up to two weeks before the onset of symptoms. Many people in a production plant could be infected with this virus before the first person begins to show symptoms. ”
Factory changes can include hundreds or thousands of workers – depending on whether they’re in the paint factory, the body shop, the stamping plant, or the final assembly, he said. Explain.
The F-150 pickup is Ford’s most profitable product, said the worker with pride.
“Supporting the voracious demand for this vehicle requires almost continuous production, split between the three teams, which work seven days a week,” said the UAW worker. “You are standing and jostling, working with and among a group of people trying to get their work done in the shortest amount of time, without stopping the line or missing part of your work.
“All the jobs have been filled with tasks, to keep the number of employees to a minimum, while maximizing the speed of the production chain. It’s a fast pace and can be exhausting work, depending on the job. “
“A big number of people
The concern about returning to the factory is not about refusing to work, said the paint shop worker.
“There are several specific areas of concern; the immediate proximity of the workers, which excludes any possibility of “social distancing”, the use of shared tools, the common assembly areas used for lunch and / or breaks, long shifts which correspond to exposure times longer, and the large number of people in the factories, especially the final assembly. ”
Ford has established new safety protocols for when workers enter factories on Monday and when they work indoors. Felker told Free Press on Sunday:
- Before entering the factory, workers will have to perform a daily self-certification of health and well-being to ensure that they have no symptoms of COVID-19 and that they have not been directly exposed to someone known to have the disease.
- Workers will undergo a contactless temperature check. The details will be different for each plant. Where workers currently manufacture personal protective medical equipment, they go through a “thermal scanner”, like a camera that takes a thermal photo. If an employee is too hot, he will not be allowed to enter the workplace. If a person is fired from work, he must consult his doctor to be authorized to return.
- Everyone will need to wear a face mask, which will be supplied by Ford at the factories.
- If a job does not allow for social distancing, the worker must wear a face shield or safety glasses in addition to the face mask.
UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said on Sunday: “Although Ford has no production resumption date, the UAW remains committed to our position that the health and safety of members, of their families and our communities are the main determinant of when this can happen. ”
He confirmed that Ford had asked for paid volunteers to help prepare the plants for the new health and safety protocols in line with CDC and WHO guidelines.
“The UAW is committed to ensuring that these members who work voluntarily strictly adhere to health and safety protocols when they do this work to prepare the plants for possible reopening,” said Rothenberg.
“The skeleton crew”
A number of UAW Ford workers and members of their families have contacted the free press in recent days to obtain details of safety protocols and plant planning nationwide because, they say, internal memos in various Ford factories contain conflicting information. Some documents have been provided to Free Press for review.
A family member of an UAE worker at Livonia Transmission noted the three deaths at the site and said about his parent: “We asked him … if he would be willing, on a skeletal team , to work from Monday, April 27. received an SMS … which they report on Monday at 6 a.m. How are they going to protect them? Shouldn’t they be testing them first? Can you help me? ”
The free press does not identify the parent to protect the identity of the worker.
This scenario shows why UAW leaders and automakers are concerned: if workers or their families fear the spread of the virus, it hampers production operations, union leaders say.
When asked if Ford Livonia Transmission or the Dearborn truck plant were part of the site reopening, Felker said, “We are not providing further details. “
First candidates for the disease
Some UAW workers employed by Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have mentioned that their health conditions related to manual labor could compromise their ability to repel the deadly virus.
UAW President Rory Gamble said Friday that restarting union operations in early May would be “risky” at the national level.
The automakers say they have no intention of compromising worker safety.
“Ford and the UAW continue to work closely together on initiatives to keep our people safe when we restart our factories. We will share more information in the future, “said Felker.
She said, “If you report that Ford plans to reopen its factories on May 11, you will not be correct. “
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Number of auto workers killed
The UAW or company officials have confirmed the following 25 deaths in Detroit Three manufacturing plants since March 22:
- A GM Tech Center UAW worker.
- Two FCA employees from Sterling Stamping.
- Three FCA employees at the Sterling Heights assembly plant
- FCA employee at Kokomo transmission plant in Indiana
- Four Warren Truck FCA employees
- FCA employee of FCA Transport in Sterling Heights
- Two FCA employees from the MOPAR parts distribution center at Center Line
- FCA employee at Warren stamping plant
- FCA worker at Chelsea Proving Grounds
- Non-union FCA employee at company offices in Auburn Hills
- Ford worker in the skilled trades at the Ford Data Center in Dearborn
- A Ford employee from Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing Plant in Dearborn
- Dearborn Stamping Ford Worker
- A Ford worker from Michigan Assembly in Wayne
- Three Ford workers at the Livonia transmission plant
- Ford worker at Chicago assembly plant
Contact Phoebe Wall Howard at 313-222-6512or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @phoebesaid. Learn more about Ford and sign up for our automotive newsletter.
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