Detroit automakers and UAW agree to curb production

MICHIGAN: The Detroit Three automakers and United Auto Workers agreed on Tuesday to curtail production at US factories and limit the number of workers on the job at one time to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among roughly 150,000 factory employees.
The union and the automakers agreed to “rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility and between shifts, extended periods between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact,” the union said in a statement.
The agreement came hours after UAW President Rory Gamble went public with his dissatisfaction with how General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV had responded to his proposal on Sunday that the companies stop production in the face of the coronavirus threat.
Gamble warned he would take unilateral action if the automakers did not do more to secure hourly workers on factory floors.
The tension between the UAW and the Detroit automakers highlighted a divide in the US labour force that extends well beyond the auto industry.
The automakers have allowed salaried employees whose tools are design software and spreadsheets to work from home to reduce their risks of exposure. But the companies had required factory workers whose hands assemble the vehicles to come work in buildings where thousands labour side by side, and congregate in break areas and cafeterias.
Gamble had told the automakers on Sunday that they should shut US factories for two weeks, and made that position public early on Tuesday.
The agreement reached after talks late on Tuesday allows the automakers to keep building profitable models such as Ford’s F-150 pickup, Fiat Chrysler’s Jeep Wrangler and GM’s Cadillac Escalade at a reduced pace. The compromise is less costly than a full shutdown that would have forced the automakers to forego billions in revenue during the current quarter. US vehicle sales are likely to slow as consumers are urged, or forced, to stay home in many states. Slowing production could avoid building up inventories of vehicles that would have to be discounted later. Ford said on Tuesday it had to temporarily stop production of sport utility vehicles at a plant in Chicago because of parts shortages. The UAW said the automakers also agreed to “work with us in Washington, DC, on behalf of our members as we manage the disruption in the industry.” The union’s statement did not elaborate on what it wants from the US government, but a parade of industries is forming in the capital seeking assistance as coronavirus lockdowns threaten the economy. — Reuters