General Motors (GM) has announced plans to reopen its assembly plants in the United States and Canada on May 18. The information was released to union members on Tuesday, and the official announcement came yesterday.
“GM plans to begin a limited, cadenced, and site-specific approach for a return to the workplace in many of our North American manufacturing facilities. We are targeting Monday, May 18, and we are collaborating with state governments and union partners. We are confident that we have an approach that allows us to move into this next phase with safety as our guide.”
- GM memo
Union of American Auto Workers (UAW) President Rory Gamble also confirmed his organization's agreement with the May 18 date after previously expressing concern that the automaker is restarting production too soon.
“The companies contractually make that decision and we all knew this day would come at some point. Our UAW focus and role is and will continue to be, on health and safety protocols to protect our members.”
- Rory Gamble, UAW president
An important part of the agreement is GM’s commitment to keep paying workers forced into quarantine for up to 14 days. The UAW has stated that the big three U.S. manufacturers must agree to compensate workers who quarantine themselves after contracting Covid-19 or after coming into contact with someone infected with the virus, as employees may be afraid to report symptoms if they think they will lose their wages because of it.
In a 48-page guide released last week, GM outlined the safety measures it will take to stop the spread of Covid -19 in its plants once they are back in operation. These include taking the temperature of employees when they arrive at work, setting up hand sanitizing stations and staggering work areas to reduce the number of employees concentrated in one area. The manufacturer developed this manual based on lessons learned at some of its plants in China and Korea, as well as at its facility producing ventilators in Kokomo, Indiana.
GM was forced to shut down its U.S. and Canadian assembly plants in March due to the pandemic. The automaker is anxious to get its facilities back up and running as its vehicle inventory dwindles, especially at its Arlington assembly plant where the new generation of full-size family SUVs are assembled, as well as at its various plants handling production of pickup trucks.