DETROIT — Ford confirmed Tuesday that it plans to again postpone restarting its automobile production in North America “to help protect its workers” with no restart date scheduled.
The decision comes after news that a third UAW worker employed by Ford and diagnosed with the novel coronavirus has died, this time from the Dearborn Diversified Manufacturing Plant in Dearborn. The facility, which is part of the Rouge operation, is represented by UAW Local 600. Brian Rothenberg, UAW spokesman, said Tuesday the union was notified late Monday of the death.
Kelli Felker, Ford spokeswoman, said Tuesday, “We are saddened to report that a third Ford team member who worked in Dearborn, Mich., passed away after contracting COVID-19. It is a tragic reminder that the coronavirus crisis is everywhere and requires the attention of all of us. Our thoughts are with their families, friends and co-workers during this difficult time.”
Ford had hoped to restart production April 6 at its Hermosillo Assembly Plant and April 14 in the remainder of the U.S.
The situation at General Motors remains uncertain, too.
“We will reopen when it is safe to do so,” said Jim Cain, a GM spokesman. “We promised our suppliers and manufacturing regular updates, but the situation is still very fluid. When we do restart, you will see a cadenced approach, rather than a single date for the entire system.”
Fiat Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson said Tuesday, “We will continue to monitor the situation.”
“The health and safety of our workforce, dealers, customers, partners and communities remains our highest priority,” Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, North America, said in a statement. “We are working very closely with union leaders — especially at the UAW — to develop additional health and safety procedures aimed at helping keep our workforce safe and healthy.”
“Today’s decision by Ford is the right decision for our members, their families and our nation,” UAW International President Rory Gamble said in a statement. “Under Vice President Gerald Kariem, the UAW Ford Department continues to work closely with our local unions and Ford to make sure that as we return to production all members are safe, and our communities are protected from this spreading pandemic.”
Besides the three deaths of Ford UAW workers, the union has confirmed seven Fiat Chrysler Automobiles employees have died, including one non-UAW employee. The union is notified when their workers may be exposed.
Felker, the Ford spokeswoman, said, “We will continue to assess public health conditions, government guidelines and supplier readiness to determine when the time is right to resume production.”
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