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United States: in spite of an agreement to maintain auto-production, the Big 3 have closed their US facilities
Planet Labor, 19 March 2020, n°11737 - www.planetlabor.com

The Big 3 automakers in the US, namely Ford, General Motors, and FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) have announced production will halt Stateside until 30 March. This decision was taken following several hours of discussions with representatives from the UAW (United Auto Workers) who had been lobbied by workers for this outcome. “Today’s action is the prudent thing to do,” United Auto Workers president Rory Gamble said in a statement. “By taking a shutdown and working through next steps, we protect UAW members, their families, and the community.” Trade unionists had initially agreed a compromise with the Big 3 automakers to continue working (c.f. article No. 11723), but this was before the escalation in confirmed Covid-19 cases. At the Ford factory in Wayne Michigan, a worker was tested positive for Covid-19 and the plant had to close. At the FCA site in Sterling Heights another case was announced and when workers at the FCA jeep plant in Toledo learned of the news, they halted their machines. After this event, smooth and orderly vehicle production was no longer feasible, and all the more so since inventories are plentiful and demand levels are collapsing. Vehicle producers are struggling to come to terms with the reality because the capital costs will be significant since the industry is so capital intensive. The equipment is costly, the fixed costs are enormous, and it is normally better to keep the machines working, yet today they have all stopped. Business maybe start up again because the heads of GM and Ford have said they are in talks with the UK and US governments over the potential for producing medical equipment and in particular ventilator machines.