The three automotive giants of Detroit should gradually resume production in North America from Monday, but the concern should be palpable on the assembly lines, where it is difficult to practice social distancing and avoid the risk of the spread of the coronavirus.
General Motors (GM), Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) ensures that you have taken precautions to protect their employees, while the opening of the car factory marks a crucial phase in the reboot of the u.s. economy.
But these safeguards are far to convince everyone.
“I expect it to be hectic,” said an official from the powerful trade union United Auto Workers (UAW) under the guise of anonymity.
The date of restart of the plants of the “Big Three”, may 18, coincides with the return to production of a Tesla in California after a scuffle between his freakish boss, Elon Musk, and the authorities of the county of Alameda, which is the only assembly line of the group in the United States (Fremont).
The manufacturer of premium electric vehicles must meet strict health requirements.
In Michigan, the governor Gretchen Whitmer, under the pressure of car manufacturers and oems in the local, has eased the containment measures to enable resumption of production while respecting the rules of distancing.
After you have closed it in march to combat the virus, the us car manufacturers say they are now ready to return to the business.
“Above all, our top priority is always to do what is right for our employees”, said this week in a press release the boss of the FCA, Mike Manley.
“We have worked closely with the unions to establish protocols ensuring the safety at work of our employees and the implementation of all possible measures to protect them,” added Mr. Manley.
Protect the plants
Among the changes introduced by the FCA, include the consolidation of more than 5 million square meters of production space and new programs of disinfection to comply with the hygiene criteria. Some 4 700 workstations have been modified to allow for the distancing.
Of temperature controls and self-testing are required for all employees and visitors, the beginning of the work day will be spread out in time and the times of breaks will be changed, in order to strengthen the distance. All staff should wear masks and goggles, have detailed the leaders of FCA.
Mr. Manley said to use the experience of the reopening of factories in China and Italy.
GM and Ford have announced similar measures.
Jim Glynn, vice-president of safety in the workplace at GM, said during a conference call that the employees would follow a strict protocol at the start of each day by filling out a questionnaire, and take the temperature.
“We have not had a single case of direct contamination between employees,” when these rules were applied in the factories of GM in Asia and those in the United States which are currently manufactured medical equipment, has assured Mr. Glynn.
The UAW has asked GM, Ford and FCA to relax their policy on absenteeism for the employees who will stay at home or be put in quarantine if they feel sick.
However, none of these companies do not test frequently its employees. Kiersten Robinson, human resources director at Ford, said during a conference call that his group had not enough resources for routine screening.
Is this enough?
This lack of testing is problematic for the UAW, which finally does not support the return to work plan of the automotive industry.
“If businesses are the only ones to have the contractual right to determine the opening of the factories, we have the contractual right to protect our members and will at all costs,” said the president of the UAW, Rory Gamble.
The reserves of the union are notably due to the fact that more than half of the employees of GM, Ford and FCA have more than 50 years. Nearly 40 employees of the american auto industry died of the coronavirus, according to the UAW.
“Personally, I’m not ready to go back to work and I have the feeling that they are rushing to make us go back to the factory, to make profits at the expense of those who work there,” wrote on Faceook an employee anonymous, adding that it was “almost impossible” to practice detachment in an automobile factory with production targets are ambitious.