US auto plants get back to work after COVID-19 halts

File: Automakers say employees will be able to work while practicing social distancing.

File: Automakers say employees will be able to work while practicing social distancing.

Wikimedia Commons

NEW YORK - Two months after effectively freezing American auto manufacturing, Detroit's "Big Three" began a gradual ramp-up of plants with new configurations and procedures to prevent coronavirus outbreaks.

Some hourly workers have expressed concerns about the risks of assembly line activity, where staff traditionally have worked side-by-side. But automakers say they will be able to work while practicing social distancing and taking other measures to protect workers.

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"We will monitor the situation, adapt accordingly and make any changes to policy in accordance with the CDC/WHO-recommended employee safety practices," General Motors said in a safety flier given to workers.

Spokesman for the United Auto Workers Brian Rothenberg said defenders of labour would monitor how things go.

"It's still early but I haven't heard of major incidents, and staffing appears to be at or above estimates as people go through protocols," Rothenberg said. 

READ: Virus lockdowns send European car sales down 55%

Automakers have disinfected work stations, revamped spaces, staggered shift times and installed soap and cleaning equipment throughout the factories.

GM Chief Executive Mary Barra said earlier this month that the company would resume production "in a very cadenced and thoughtful way" with just one shift before adding more.

Ford set return-to-work dates for several plants for the week of May 18, while listing a few factories that would not resume until the week of May 25.

Source
AFP