Auto manufacturing is one of many industries grappling with the challenges presented by the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19.
General Motors (GM), Ford, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), and the United Auto Workers (UAW) on Sunday announced the formation of a COVID-19 task force aimed at bringing enhanced protections for U.S.-based manufacturing and warehouse employees at all three companies.
Seen as an effort to avoid the level of disruption experienced by car factories in China, South Korea, and Italy where some plants have been forced to temporarily close in response to COVID-19 cases, the newly formed group will put in place a raft of measures that include enhanced visitor screening, increased sanitizing of common areas and touch points, and the implementation of safety protocols for workers with potential exposure as well as those exhibiting flu-like symptoms.
The task force will also focus on vehicle production plans, social distancing, break and cleaning schedules, health and safety education, health screening, food service, “and any other areas that have the potential to improve protections for employees.”
The joint effort is being led by the bosses of each of the three automakers, namely GM chairman and CEO Mary Barra, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford, Ford president and CEO Jim Hackett, and FCA CEO Michael Manley. UAW president Rory Gamble will also be at the top table.
In a joint statement, the three CEOs described the situation regarding COVID-19 as “fluid and unprecedented,” adding that the task force plans to “move quickly to build on the wide-ranging preventive measures we have put in place [in a bid to] keep our workforces safe and healthy.”
UAW President Rory Gamble said: “Workplace health and safety is a priority for us every day, all three companies have been taking steps to keep the COVID-19/coronavirus out of their facilities and during this national emergency, we will do even more working together.”
The announcement of the joint task force comes just days after the three automakers expanded their remote-work programs to allow some employees to perform their duties at home, if possible, in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The automotive industry started to feel the impact of the virus in January when a number of factories around the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak is believed to have started, were forced to close temporarily. In February, Hyundai was forced to shutter the largest car factory in the world in Ulsan, South Korea, after a serious COVID-19 outbreak in the country, putting thousands of workers on forced leave. And in Italy, which is currently dealing with a huge number of coronavirus cases, output has also been cut with the temporary closure of a number of car factories.
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