Auto Giants Aim To Reopen as Manufacturing Stalls Under COVID-19
Written by Luis Miguel
Ford is seeking to reopen five North American factories that were closed over coronavirus worries.
The automaker put production on hold at its North American plants last week amid pressure from the United Auto Workers union, which raised concerns about the possibility of members spreading the virus by working in close workstations.
Brian Rothenberg, spokesman for the union, said Thursday that the UAW is conducting a review of Ford’s announced plans “with great concern and caution.”
Ford aims to reopen its Hermosillo, Mexico, factory on April 6, followed on April 14 by its truck and transit line plants in Dearborn, Michigan; Louisville, Kentucky; Cleveland, Ohio; and Kansas City, Missouri.
Additionally, the company wants to restart U.S.-based parts-making plants in Michigan, Missouri, Kentucky, and Ohio.
Ford assured it would introduce additional safety measures for workers but provide details later. “We will continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans as necessary,” the company stated.
Cole Stevenson, a Ford employee who works installing steering wheels at a pickup truck plant in Dearborn, said a three-week timeframe would probably be enough to ensure worker safety.
“If they’ve researched up enough on how long the virus lives on surfaces and things like that, and they’re doing their part to keep that at a minimum, I guess I’m not too inclined to worry,” he said.
Ford’s planned reopen date is set for just after Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home order expires at 11:59 p.m. on April 13.
Because carmakers book revenue when vehicles are shipped to dealers, their revenue stream is largely cut off when production stalls.
Together, Detroit’s big automakers employ 150,000 unionized factory workers. Fiat Chrysler wants to restart operations April 14, while Toyota seeks to open up shop on April 20.
Ford employs approximately 56,000 UAW workers. Some members of the union have expressed fear of being infected with coronavirus and taking it back to their families. Two Fiat Chrysler union workers from plants in the Detroit area and Kokomo, Indiana, reportedly died this week from complications due to the virus, though it is not yet clear whether they caught it at the factories or somewhere else.
Most people experience only mild or moderate symptoms from the virus, including fever and cough, and go on to recover in two to three weeks. People with compromised immune systems, including the elderly, have been shown to be at risk of a more severe infection resulting in pneumonia or even death.
Honda said Thursday it is also pushing to reopen its American and Canadian plants on April 7. The Japanese car manufacturer suspended production Monday and had initially planned to restart on March 31.
It isn’t just American factories that have been put on hold.
Italy this week put most of its industry on pause in an effort to contain the virus. After more than two weeks of a countrywide shutdown, the Italian government expanded mandatory closure of nonessential businesses to heavy industry in what is the eurozone’s third-largest economy and a major exporter of machinery and textiles.
Italy currently leads the world’s coronavirus death toll with 8,165, surging past China — where the virus originated.
Industrial lobby Confindustria estimates 70 billion to 100 billion euros a month of national wealth lost if the closures go through as expected.
“We are entering a war economy,” said Confindustria President Vincenzo Boccia.
Erik Nielsen, chief economist for UniCredit bank, expects the Italian economy to shrink by anywhere from five percent to 15 percent this year — and that’s not only assuming a recovery toward the end of 2020, but taking into account a 25 billion-euro aid package and 350 billion euros in credit lines.
Meanwhile, the Italian Treasury estimates a five-percent to seven-percent GDP hit on the nation’s economy related to virus response measures.
“The economic consequences of the suspensions [could be] insurmountable, because the continuity of companies is being interrupted for a substantially undetermined period,” wrote Confindustria’s business daily, Sole 24 Ore.
Among the companies now forced to cease their operations in Italy are Fiat Chrysler, along with tiremaker Pirelli and Luxottica, the world’s largest eyewear manufacturer, whose brands include Ray-Ban and Oakley.
While the industrial shutdown in Italy is currently programmed to last a week, the actual length remains uncertain and will ultimately depend on the status of the outbreak.
Luis Miguel is a writer whose journalistic endeavors shed light on the Deep State, the immigration crisis, and the enemies of freedom. Follow his exploits on Facebook, Twitter, Bitchute, and at luisantoniomiguel.com.
Courtesy of The New American