WARREN, Mich. – Ford Motor Company announced Tuesday that it will not be reopening its plants as early as it originally hoped due to the continuing spread of the coronavirus.
The trio said plants would be closed at least through March 30 so the facilities could be cleaned and sanitized. But now Ford officials are saying the closure will last even longer.
“Ford’s top priority is the health and safety of our employees, dealers, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America. “In light of various governments’ orders to stay and work from home, Ford is not planning to restart our plants in the U.S., Canada and Mexico on Monday, March 30, as originally hoped.
“We are assessing various options and working with union leaders -- including the United Auto Workers and Unifor -- on the optimal timing for resuming vehicle production, keeping the well-being of our workforce top of mind.”
UAW pushes for plant shutdown
Officials with the United Auto Workers’ union pressured automakers to close plants for nearly a week. Line workers were getting angrier by the day, and absenteeism rose with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state.
On Wednesday, the mounting pressure reached a breaking point, and the companies decided to officially close the plants.
A worker got sick Wednesday morning at the Ford Truck Assembly Plant in Dearborn, and another tested positive for coronavirus. Ford closed the plant to clean and disinfect.
FCA suspended production at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant after it was announced Tuesday that an employee at the plant tested positive for coronavirus.
As word spread, the situation became unsettled on the lines through all the plants. Finally, by early Wednesday afternoon, the UAW-Domestic Three Task Force came to the conclusion it was time to shutter plants in order to start the cleaning and disinfecting process.
At the Warren Truck Assembly Plant, workers who were told to go home said they were glad to hear it.
“It should have happened a long time ago,” one worker said. “We should never have been in there. We all work in close proximity to each other, and if somebody’s sick and if they sneeze or cough -- we hav ethe fans blowing on all of us, blowing germs on you. It’s not safe.”
“There are about 1,500 people in there,” another worker said. “It just wasn’t safe. We’re all glad to be finished.”
“UAW members, their families and our communities will benefit from today’s announcement, with the certainty that we are doing all that we can to protect our health and safety during this pandemic.” UAW President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease."