• GM's CAMI facility

Ingersoll Union Calls for Closure as Plants in Europe Stop and Detroit 3 Work Together Against COVID-19

We expect more closures to affect the industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Evan Williams By: Evan Williams March 16, 2020

As the world continues to lock down to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the automotive industry proceeds to shutter plants, halt plans, cancel events, and we are now even seeing the Detroit Three working together to help keep workers safe. These are the latest plant closures and automotive impacts.

While plants in China were the first to close, automakers in South Korea and Japan were quickly affected not directly by the virus but by parts shortages from shuttered Chinese suppliers.

On March 12th, Lamborghini announced that it would be closing its factory in Sant’Agata Bolognese until March 25th. Company Chair and CEO Stefano Domenicali said that “this measure is an act of social responsibility and high sensibility towards our people, in the extraordinary situation in which we find ourselves right now in Italy and which is also evolving abroad due to the worldwide spread of Coronavirus.”

Earlier today, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles announced that it would be halting production for ” the majority of ” the automaker’s manufacturing plants in Europe, including FCA Italy and Maserati. That means six plants in Italy, one in Serbia, and one in Poland. This closure comes after the automaker had increased cleaning and sanitization as well as other improvements to protect workers, and is related not solely to stopping the spread of the virus. FCA said that it “enables the Group to effectively respond to the interruption in market demand by ensuring the optimization of supply.” In short, there is no one to buy the cars they were making at the moment. FCA says it plans to use the stoppages to make changes to production and quality protocols to enhance product and productivity once things restart.

Again in Italy, Ferrari has closed its two plants until March 27th, it has announced. The automaker had previously implemented all appropriate health measures but that production is now being impacted by supply issues. Brake maker Brembo, a major industry supplier, announced that it was closing four Italian plants for four weeks. “At a time like this.” said Ferrari CEO, Louis Camilleri, “my gratitude goes first and foremost to Ferrari’s women and men who, with their tremendous commitment over the past few days, have demonstrated the passion and dedication that defines our marque.” He added that “it is out of our respect for them, for their peace of mind and those of their families that we have decided on this course of action.”

Ford of Europe has closed a plant in the Valencia region of Spain, Reuters reports, after three employees tested positive for the virus. “We have had three positive cases of COVID-19 in the Ford Valencia plant in the past 24 hours,”the company said, adding it was following protocol by isolating all employees that had contact with the infected workers. That plant is one of Ford’s largest outside of Europe, producing more than 400,000 vehicles per year.

In what may be an unprecedented move FCA, GM, Ford, and the United Auto Workers have announced the formation of a joint task force to help manufacturing and warehouse workers stay healthy and avoid this coronavirus. In a joint statement, the leaders of GM, Ford and FCA said, “This is a fluid and unprecedented situation, and the task force will move quickly to build on the wide-ranging preventive measures we have put in place. We are all coming together to help keep our workforces safe and healthy.” All three automakers are working to coordinate best practices and have implemented efforts to apply increased screening of visitors, increase cleaning and sanitization, and develop and implement safety protocols for people with potential exposures.

Meanwhile, at home, Unifor local 88, which represents workers at GM’s CAMI facility in Ingersoll, ON, issued a statement yesterday requesting a closure for at least two weeks. “I have requested that our plant be sent home starting Monday, March 23 for a minimum of 2-week layoff.” The statement indicated the gravity of the situation for both health and vehicle supply issues, saying that “this may be the first time any Union official has asked for a layoff of their entire membership, but these are not normal times.” Requesting that if layoffs are inevitable that they happen now, when they could help stop the spread, not later when the virus has already made its way through the population. The statement also noted that the plant already had two workers off work for a government-issued quarantine and that GM had paid them full wages during that time.

We expect more closures to affect the industry as the world deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Source: Reuters, GM, FCA