General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and Fiat Chrysler announced on Wednesday the closing of their manufacturing plants for a limited time to halt or slow the spread of the coronavirus, and their actions are being applauded by the United Auto Workers.
Ford will close its plants in Canada, the U.S. and Mexico until March 30 to sanitize the manufacturing facilities. In addition, Ford announced it suspending vehicle and engine production in Cologne, Germany for a number of weeks beginning Thursday. A re-start date has not been announced.
Ford took the action after the World Health Organization designated Europe as the new epicentre of coronavirus epidemic.
General Motors announced that it will begin a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing plants in North America due to market conditions and to halt the spread of the coronavirus until at least March 30. After that date, the company will reevaluate on a weekly basis resuming production.
Fiat Chrysler announced it agreed to cease production at its plants in North America through the end of March. Ford employs 55,000 UAW members. GM employs 47,000 and Fiat Chrysler employs 49,000.
The companies are working in concert with the United Auto Workers.
“GM and the UAW have always put the health and safety of the people entering GM plants first, and we have agreed to systematic, orderly suspension of production to aid fighting COVID-19/coronavirus,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra.
Ford also noted that it is working closely with the UAW to find ways to keep its workers healthy and safe, said Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president for North America.
Ford recently closed its Michigan assembly plant after an employee tested positive for COVID-19. Workers are thoroughly cleaning the plant and the Michigan Assembly Plant will halt production through March 30.
Mike Manley, CEO of Fiat Chrysler, said “We need to ensure employees feel safe at work and we are taking every step possible to protect them.”
“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic.”
Ford, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler announced Sunday they have formed Coronavirus Task Force with the UAW to implement enhanced protections for manufacturing facilities.