‘Nobody’s comfortable’: Workers react to news that Ford, GM, FCA plants won’t close during coronavirus outbreak

New measures to be followed

DETROIT – Ford Motor Co., General Motors and Fiat-Chrysler will implement new measures at plants to slow the spread of coronavirus while remaining open.

The automakers agreed to partial-rotating plant shutdowns Tuesday after United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership asked for the plants to close.

UPDATE: Ford, GM, FCA to shut down all plants due to coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

UPDATE: FCA suspends production at Sterling Heights Assembly Plant

READ: UAW president calls for automakers to close plants due to coronavirus

But workers say that isn’t enough.

“It’s very tense,” Tom Gjokaj said. “Nobody’s comfortable”

Gjokaj is an FCA worker who is still working in close quarters with others.

“We spend more time in here working than we do with our families,” he said. “We’re like family ... and now we’re scared to touch each other.”

Gjokaj said he feels paranoid walking inside the plant.

President Rory Gamble said union leadership asked Ford, GM and FCA for a two-week shutdown of operations to safeguard members from the coronavirus outbreak.

MORE: Employee at FCA Sterling Heights Assembly Plant tests positive for coronavirus

The three automotive companies have kept production going at American facilities amid the crisis, only allowing workers who can work from home do so. That of course means production line workers have remained on the job.

Workers are close to each other in the factories, and employees are upset they are still on the job despite numerous other businesses and gathering places closing.

Union leaders and automaker officials discussed the issue for hours Tuesday.

Read a statement from the UAW below:

"As you know, the UAW has strongly requested that the Big 3 automakers cease production for the next two weeks to safeguard our members, the workforce that makes their products and our communities.

"We spent hours tonight in talks with the leadership of the Big 3, demanding that they do the right thing for our members. 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 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.

"In order to enact these changes, each company will be working with UAW Vice Presidents to implement these improvements and most importantly arranging shifts to be set to adhere to CDC required social distancing and protection of members.

“We expect more detailed information to be released in the next 24 hours. I thank you all for your strength during these difficult days.”

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