UAW Boss Says It's 'Too Risky' to Restart US Auto Production in Early May

The union wants to make sure its members will be properly protected at work.

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Production lines at automakers’ American factories have been shut down for weeks in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Companies and employees alike are understandably anxious to get back to work as the economic toll deepens—but now the powerful United Auto Workers Union has announced its disapproval of preliminary plans to slowly bring auto plants back online beginning in early May, citing major ongoing concerns about the health and safety of its members. 

General Motors, Ford, and Fiat-Chrysler have all been itching to restart production after over a month. FCA has publicly said that May 4 is its target date, while suppliers for Ford and General Motors have indicated those companies intend to follow that timeline as well. The UAW, which represents about 150,000 hourly employees across the Big Three, appears to be looking at the situation with a far more cautious eye. "At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace," union president Rory Gamble said.

This is after several talks between the union and the Big 3 on how best to reopen plants with enhanced health and safety measures.

"You've got to understand, in a manufacturing environment we can put a lot of protocols in place that will help mitigate the spread of the virus but it's almost impossible to practice 100% social distancing," Gamble said to the Detroit Free Press. "Our members are going to be working in this type of environment for a long time with the threat of infection hanging over them."

So far, at least 25 union members have passed away from the disease caused by the virus, and that's with the country's auto manufacturing facilities having been essentially shut down for a month. Gamble also said that overall the union is pleased with the way automaker's have handled the health crisis and moved to protect workers who are currently building medical equipment and other gear for hospitals, but the early May timeline is simply too ambitious right now. 

For now, it appears that the decision on how and when to reopen production lines is still a moving target. Spokespeople for the automakers all expressed their respective companies’ desires to get things moving safely but stopped short of committing to a firm reopening date.

h/t: Automotive News

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