The UAW is wary of cramming everyone back into factories while Covid-19 is still at large.
As automakers get ready to restart North American production next month after the global novel coronavirus forced factories to shutter temporarily, the United Auto Workers union is voicing concerns over the Detroit Big Three's plans. So far, only Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has publicly announced a firm target date to restart production - May 4 - but GM and Ford are most likely contemplating a similar timeline.
But multiple states - including Michigan, where the Big Three are located - have announced intentions to extend existing stay-at-home orders at least until the middle of May, albeit with slightly relaxed rules.
The US automakers are still pondering implementing changes to factory protocols to keep workers safe and help prevent a second wave of Covid-19, such as keeping work stations more distant, ramping up sanitation efforts, and taking temperatures to monitor for fevers among employees and hourly workers.
But UAW President Rory Gamble isn't convinced that automakers can adequately ensure worker safety, issuing a statement Thursday that read in part: "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."
He continued: "We want to make sure the scientific data is supportive and every possible health protocols and enhanced protections are in place before UAW members walk into the workplace."
But in an interview with The Detroit News this week, GM's Executive VP of Global Manufacturing, Gerald Johnson, pointed to the automaker's success in safely restarting production in China as evidence that the automaker could provide adequate protections here in the US. "We have over 40,000 people operating [with] these protocols already," he told the outlet. "China was six weeks ahead of us."
With the debate ongoing, it's looking increasingly likely that automakers will extend their North American production shutdowns still further into the future.
Of course, apart from forcing automakers to suspend production operations in North America, the coronavirus outbreak has also prompted automakers like GM to delay vehicle reveals and development programs. Affected debuts include the Cadillac Lyriq electric crossover and the hotly anticipated GMC Hummer electric truck.