Automotive plants to restart after 8-week COVID shutdown
Thursday, May 7, 2020
The Windsor Star/Doug Schmidt
While some Ford employees in Windsor have been busy churning out face shields for frontline workers in the battle against COVID-19, the automotive company’s more traditional work is set to begin ramping up again.
Starting next week, a partial crew will be returning to prepare the machinery for resumption of automotive parts production, Unifor Local 200 president John D’Agnolo told reporters Thursday. Ford’s Essex Engine and Windsor Annex plants were idled March 20 as the global coronavirus pandemic all but shut down North American manufacturing.
After the partial crew gets the manufacturing areas ready for startup, D’Agnolo said production workers begin returning on May 19, after the long weekend. Initially, he said, “it looks like one shift will be running,” adding that employees will be called back to work based on seniority.
D’Agnolo said “a ton of work” by the company and the union has gone into making sure workers are kept “as safe as possible.”
FCA has resumed production in China, where COVID-19 was first detected, and in Italy, one of the worst-hit countries in the world, and the company is hoping to restart the Windsor Assembly Plant later this month as well.
On Thursday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced auto companies and other manufacturers in her state could resume operations on Monday, May 11, one week ahead of the planned restart date of May 18 announced by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and General Motors.
“We’re not out of the woods yet, but this is an important step forward,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This is good news for our state, our businesses, and our working families.”
Whitmer told a news conference that the Detroit Three had reached an agreement with the United Auto Workers to restart North American manufacturing on that date at 25 per cent capacity. Michigan manufacturers must implement measures designed to protect workers from COVID-19, including screening of workers and others entering plants and temperature checks.
Windsor manufacturers had been forced to push back previously announced restart dates due to the rising numbers of COVID-19 cases and the constantly changing future projections on the spread of the highly contagious virus. FCA, which idled WAP in mid-March, for example, had previously said it would reopen the Windsor facility — which employs about 6,000 workers on three shifts — on April 14 and then on May 4.
“I hope I don’t have to call you on Friday to tell you that it’s being delayed again,” D’Agnolo told reporters Thursday of Ford’s latest projected restart.
New workplace safety measures at Ford’s plants in Windsor include thermal temperature checks, health-related questions, masks, plastic face shields and gloves. Individual work areas will also have cleaning stations allowing employees to wipe down their machines when they wish.