All shifts at GM’s Fort Wayne Assembly Plant will be out for a temporary shutdown as of the end of its second shift March 20.
The facility’s second shift has a normal ending time of 10:30 p.m., said its spokeswoman, Stephanie Jentgen.
“We do not have an end date at this time,” she said of the shutdown’s duration. “There will be a small group of employees on site to maintain critical operations.”
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General Motors Co.’s plants including Fort Wayne Assembly were providing the vehicle manufacturer information March 18 that it could use to determine when to include them soon in a temporary shutdown.
In a brief announcement March 18, the company “confirmed it will begin a systematic orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America due to market conditions, to deep clean facilities and continue to protect people.
“The suspension will last until at least March 30. Production status will be reevaluated week-to-week after that,” it said.
As of the afternoon of March 18, Fort Wayne Assembly had not seen any of its workers test positive for COVID-19 and it had not seen any related uptick in workers staying home with cold or flu symptoms or in workers over 60 retiring, according to Stephanie Jentgen, a plant spokeswoman.
The plant employs about 4,400, including temporary workers, making Chevrolet Silverado and GMC Sierra pickups. United Auto Workers Local 2209 represents everyone there with the exception of about 300 management positions.
A joint GM-UAW leadership message posted on the local’s website said employees were to clean their workspaces with provided cleaning materials during a 12-minute cleaning window at the start of each shift.
They were to spray cleaner onto paper towels rather than directly onto surfaces with electronics.
The plant’s shift transition time would increase from 18 minutes to 60 minutes to avoid overlapping shifts, with the one-hour separation as time paid.
Any employees feeling sick were to call into an attendance line to report a personal injury or illness and then seek the medical guidance of a personal physician. That guidance would determine whether any special handling relating to COVID-19 would be required.
If an employee’s diagnosis is related to COVID-19 or requires isolation, they should arrange to discuss it with Fort Wayne Assembly medical and human resources teams, the message said.
“GM and the UAW have always put the health and safety of the people entering GM plants first, and we have agreed to a systematic, orderly suspension of production to aid in fighting COVID-19/coronavirus,” GM Chair and CEO Mary Barra said in an announcement.
“We have been taking extraordinary precautions around the world to keep our plant environments safe and recent developments in North America make it clear this is the right thing to do now,” she said.
“I appreciate the teamwork of UAW President Rory Gamble, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes and local leadership as we take this unprecedented step.”
At the UAW’s International Detroit headquarters, a March 17 announcement on its website said it had strongly requested the Big 3 automakers safeguard its members by halting production for the next two weeks.
All three of the car companies agreed to new measures that would improve adherence with recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on “social distancing” in the workplace.
“Most importantly, all three companies have agreed to review and implement the rotating partial shutdown of facilities, extensive deep cleaning of facility and equipment between shifts, extended periods between shifts, and extensive plans to avoid member contact,” it said. “They will be working on shift rotation to minimize risk.”
Ford Motor Co. planned to help with COVID-19 containment efforts by halting manufacturing at its plants in the United States, Canada and Mexico through March 30, following evening shifts March 19, in order to clean and sanitize them thoroughly.
The company temporarily closed a Michigan Assembly Plant final assembly building the morning of March 18 for thorough cleaning and disinfecting following a positive COVID-19 test for an employee there.
It was scheduled to remain shut down until March 30. Ford told workers who had direct contact with the infected employee to seek medical attention and self-quarantine.
Workers who had close contact with workers who had direct contact with the infected employee were asked to watch for symptoms so they could seek medical attention if they felt sick.