- Ford, FCA, GM, and the UAW have come together to create a task force focused on thwarting the spread of COVID-19 in their factories.
- The group will work on ways to keep their employees safe as the virus further threatens production.
- The decision to form the task force follows criticism of the manufacturers for keeping plants running.
The economic threat of COVID-19 is forging alliances—and a task force composed of the Detroit Three and UAW is the latest example of that. As the virus has spread, it poses an increasing risk to continuing production, and so the automakers and the union have created a coalition to address the issue of protection for factory workers.
The three CEOs will be a part of the task force: Ford’s Jim Hackett, GM’s Mary Barra, and FCA’s Michael Manley, in addition to UAW president Rory Gamble and Ford executive chairman Bill Ford. Those on the task force, according to a press release, will focus on social distancing, break and cleaning schedules, health education and screening, and common areas where workers interact.
“This is a fluid and unprecedented situation, and the task force will move quickly to build on the wide-ranging preventive measures we have put in place,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “We are all coming together to help keep our workforces safe and healthy.”
Together, the task force aims to enhance visitor screening, standardize procedures for cleaning common areas, and implement safety protocols for people with potential exposure to the virus or exhibiting symptoms. “We are focused on doing the right thing for our people, their families, our communities and the country,” Rory Gamble, UAW president, said in a statement. “All options related to protecting against exposure to the virus are on the table.”
The task force was quickly assembled over the course of 24 hours, according to Automotive News, as pressure mounted for them to take additional steps to protect factory workers. Over the weekend, the automakers have told most of their salaried workers to work from home starting today.
On the other hand, factory workers have continued reporting to work, drawing criticism from some. Last week, an FCA plant in Canada halted production for 24 hours as workers refused to go to work over fear of an employee being exposed to coronavirus. Today, FCA announced that it would be stopping production through March 27 at most of its European plants due to the virus.
FCA was the first automaker to have a U.S. employee—a salaried worker at the Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana—test positive for coronavirus.