Shorter-than-expected virus disruptions at Detroit 3 UAW plants


DETROIT — In the second week of production after the coronavirus shutdown, the Detroit 3 aimed to find a balance: Keep factory floors from spreading infection while racing to fulfill orders from dealers desperate for inventory.

All three companies have had confirmed cases of the virus within their plants since they reopened May 18. But because of new guidance from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in most cases, they have been able to disinfect affected areas with much shorter stoppages than anticipated.

With two weeks to see how everything was running again, the automakers had to quickly decide whether to forgo the usual summer shutdowns to make up for some of the two months they were closed. The contractual deadline to notify the UAW of planned changes in their production calendars, such as canceling the summer break, is Monday, June 1.

The automakers initially said they would shut down a plant for 24 hours to clean when a positive case of the virus was confirmed. But the CDC on May 22 said high-touch surfaces were not a primary means for the virus to spread. That has allowed production to be minimally disrupted.

Still, the UAW continues to advocate for mass testing within the plants.

“We’re pushing for as much testing as possible right now, and when it is available, we want full testing,” UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg told Automotive News.

“Our health and safety committees, as well as the union from the local level to the international, are being very vigilant about making sure that protocols are being followed, that we’re sharing best practices,” he said. “We’re looking at any enhancements we can get as they come online to protect our members. Their health and safety is our first priority.”



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