United states based auto giant Ford Motor announced on Thursday that it intends to start production again at one of its “key” assembly plants in North America as early as April 6. The unit was closed down last week because of intense pressure from workers’ union to do so in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus throughout the workforce of the company.
Ford pickups, SUVs, vans and commercial trucks are manufactured in the majority of the plants of the company in North America. The plants will include “additional safety measures to protect returning workers” from contracting Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, said Ford President of North America Kumar Galhotra, in a statement.
Plans to temporarily shutter their manufacturing units due to the coronavirus on March 18 were announced by Ford as well as General Motors and Fiat Chrysler under severe pressure from the United Auto Workers union. Initially, Ford wanted to restart production in its North American factories on March 30. However stay at home orders issued in various parts of the US forced the company to defer the reopening date.
The latest announcement by Ford to restart manufacturing come just two days after the US president Donald Trump said in a television interview that he intends to reopen the US economy by Easter Sunday even in the face of exponentially rising number of cases of coronavirus infections and virus related deaths in the country.
Following the announcement, the stock price of Ford was down by 4.8 per cent during pre-market trading. In the last 12 months, the shares of the company have dropped by 36.7 per cent while it is down by 42 per cent so far this year.
According to its plans for reopening, Ford wants to reopen a plant in Mexico that manufactures the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ sedans on April 6. The plan entails opening up of one factory each in Michigan, Kentucky, Missouri and Ohio – all are engaged in manufacturing of truck, SUV and vans.
The company said that eight supporting facilities also will come back online on April 14 to support the large assembly plants. The company did not make it clear how many employees would be returning back to work as at that time.
Ford will “continue to assess public health conditions as well as supplier readiness and will adjust plans if necessary,” according to Galhotra.
It is reviewing Ford’s plans “with great concern and caution,” citing the union’s top priority is “the health and safety of our members, their families and the American public”, said the USW in a statement.
The company does not “have firm return to work dates at this time”, said a GM spokesman in an emailed statement to the media. The situation was “fluid and can change week to week”, he said.
(Adapted from CNBC.com)