Coronavirus News Asia

Workers wary as Detroit’s ‘Big 3’ gear up


Detroit’s auto giants are keen to resume production this week, but there will be unease on assembly lines where social distancing is difficult and worries about the deadly coronavirus persist.

Motor City carmakers insist they are taking precautions to protect employees for the ramp-up that marks a key moment in the attempt to relaunch the US economy.

But not everyone is convinced.

“I am expecting a bumpy ride,” said one United Auto Workers official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The “Big Three,” which have the experience of relaunching in Asia, have set their US restart for May 18.

That is the same day Tesla has been cleared by local regulators in California to resume full production following a faceoff between public health officials and brash Tesla boss Elon Musk that apparently was resolved with a compromise on enhanced safety measures.

Unlike California, Michigan has been the site of armed marches to the state capitol in protest over restrictions imposed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Under pressure from the state’s automotive suppliers and carmakers, she modified her stay-at-home orders to allow for the resumption of manufacturing with social distancing.

After effectively shutting down in March to combat the deadly virus, US carmakers say they are now ready to get back to business.

“Above everything else, our top priority has always been to do what is right for our employees,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said in a statement this week.

“We have worked closely with the unions to establish protocols that will ensure our employees feel safe at work and that every step possible has been taken to protect them.”


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