Ford said Wednesday it will temporarily suspend production at its North American factories through March 30 in response to COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.
“We’re continuing to work closely with union leaders, especially the United Auto Workers, to find ways to help keep our workforce healthy and safe — even as we look at solutions for continuing to provide the vehicles customers really want and need,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford’s president of North America said in a statement. “In these unprecedented times, we’re exploring unique and creative solutions to support our workforce, customers, dealers, suppliers and communities.”
The move will have a widespread effect on the automotive industry and the region, causing suppliers that make parts for Ford to close down, or, at the minimum, suffer a slowdown.
Ford said it will work with UAW on “restart” plans as well as putting in place additional protocols and procedures for helping prevent the spread of the virus. One of the top priorities is to find ways to maximize social distancing among plant workers – both during work hours and at shift change, when large numbers of people typically gather at entry and exit points and maximizing cleaning times between shift changes, Ford said.
“Today’s action is the prudent thing to do. By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families and the community,” said Rory Gamble, president of the UAW. “We have time to review best practices when the plants reopen, and we prevent the possible spread of this pandemic. We commend Ford for working with us and taking this bold step.”
Ford also temporarily closed its Michigan Assembly Plant building Wednesday morning after an employee tested positive for the COVID-19. The company said it is thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the building. The plant, like the others, will halt production through March 30.
Ford’s closures in North America follows a decision to shutter factories in Cologne and Saarlouis in Germany as well as its Craiova facility in Romania. Earlier this week, Ford asked all salaried employees — except those performing business critical roles that can’t be done off site —to work remotely until further notice.
On Sunday, the UAW along with GM, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles formed a coronavirus task force to work on ways to protect worker and lessen the spread of the disease.