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Ford recalls skeleton crew to begin factory prep Monday amid worker anxiety

April 26, 2020

Ford Motor Co. confirmed Sunday that it plans to recall a skeleton crew of workers Monday to start preparing its factories for reopening, even as UAW members express anxiety about their safety amid a pandemic.

Its plants, along with all Detroit Three assembly lines, have been shut down since late-March to protect workers from exposure to COVID-19.

"We are asking a small number of hourly and salaried workers to return to work this week in preparation for a restart at a future date, which has not yet been determined. These workers will begin putting safety protocols in place that we will use when we do reopen our facilities," said Kelli Felker, Ford global manufacturing and communications manager.

The callbacks have a "volunteer" status, which means workers are paid if they choose to work but they are not required to work. Ford declined to specify which sites are calling back workers.

b39e-4783-a2fe-09560d5770ae-ford-rouge-dearborn-40.jpg

The first 2015 Ford F-150 truck comes off the assembly line at the Dearborn Truck Plant at the Ford Rouge Center on November 11, 2014 in Dearborn. (Photo: Regina H. Boone, Detroit Free Press)

A UAW member who paints F-150 pickups at the Dearborn Truck Plant and who asked not to be identified because he's not authorized to speak publicly told the Free Press: "A big point of concern is the nature of the coronavirus, and its propensity to be highly contagious for up to two weeks before any symptoms show. Many people in a production facility could become infected by this virus before the first person began to show symptoms."

Plant shifts may include hundreds or thousands of workers — depending on whether they're in the paint plant, body shop, stamping plant or final assembly, he explained.

'Voracious demand'
The F-150 pickup is Ford's most profitable product, the worker noted proudly.

"Supporting the voracious demand for this vehicle requires almost nonstop production, spread across the three crews, which work seven days a week," the UAW worker said. "You are on your feet and hustling, working with and among a group of people all trying to do their jobs in the minimal amount of time allotted, without stopping the line or missing part of your job.


"All of the jobs have been packed with tasks, to reduce the number of employees to the minimum, all while maximizing the speed of the production line. It is a frenetic pace, and can be exhausting work, depending on the job."

'Sheer number' of people
Concern about returning to the plant is not about an unwillingness to work, the paint shop worker said.

"There are several specific areas of concern; the close proximity of workers, which preclude any possibility of 'social distancing,' the use of shared tools, common gathering areas used for lunch and or breaks, long shifts which equate to longer terms of exposure, and the sheer number of people within the plants, especially Final Assembly."

Ford has established new safety protocols for when workers enter the plants Monday and when they're working inside. Felker told the Free Press Sunday:

  • Before workers enter the plant, they will have to do a daily health and wellness self certification to make sure they're not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms and they have not been directly exposed to someone who is known to have the illness.
  • Workers will go through a no-contact temperature screening. The details will be different for each plant. Where workers are making medical personal protection equipment now, they go through a "thermal scanner," like a camera that takes a thermal picture. If an employee is too warm, they will not be allowed to enter the workplace. If someone is turned away from work, they will be required to see their personal care physician to be cleared to return.
  • Everybody will be required to wear a face mask, which will be provided by Ford in the plants.
  • If a job does not allow for social distancing, the worker will be required to wear a face shield or safety goggles in addition to the face mask.
UAW spokesman Brian Rothenberg said Sunday: “While we do not have a date that Ford will resume production, the UAW remains committed to our position that the health and safety of members, their families and our communities are the primary determinant of when that can occur."

He confirmed that Ford has requested paid volunteers to help prepare plants for the new health and safety protocols that meet CDC and WHO guidelines.

"The UAW is committed to making sure that those voluntarily working members have strict adherence to health and safety protocols as they perform this work to prepare plants for an eventual reopening,” Rothenberg said.

'Skeleton crew'
A number of UAW Ford workers and their family members have reached out to the Free Press in recent days seeking details about safety protocols and plant scheduling nationally because, they say, internal memos at various Ford plants contain conflicting information. Some documents have been provided to the Free Press for review.

A family member of a UAW worker at Livonia Transmission noted the three deaths at the site and said of her relative: "He was asked ... if he would be willing as part of a skeleton crew to work starting Monday, April 27. He received a text ... that they report Monday at 6. How are they going to keep them safe? Shouldn't they test them first? Can you help me?"

The Free Press is not identifying the relative to protect the worker's identity.

This scenario points to why the UAW leadership and auto companiesare concerned: If workers or their family members are fearful of the virus spreading, it impedes the production operation, union leaders say.

When asked whether Ford Livonia Transmission or the Dearborn Truck Plant were among the sites reopening, Felker said, "We are not providing further details."

Prime candidates for illness
Some UAW workers employed by Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have mentioned having health conditions related to manual labor that may compromise their ability to fend off the deadly virus.

UAW President Rory Gamble said Friday that restarting union operations in early May would be "risky" nationally.

Automakers say they have no intention of jeopardizing worker safety.

"Ford and the UAW continue working closely on initiatives to keep our workforce safe when we do restart our plants. We will share more information at a future time," Felker said.

She emphasized, "If you report that Ford is planning to reopen its plants on May 11, you will not be accurate."



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The Pope

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Maybe FoMoCo should (well ..... they may have) contacted another global manufacture (think GREEN & Agriculture) that didn't shutdown to learn what steps they put in place to combat the Coronavirus issue.... just saying......
 

Sherminiator

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Maybe FoMoCo should (well ..... they may have) contacted another global manufacture (think GREEN & Agriculture) that didn't shutdown to learn what steps they put in place to combat the Coronavirus issue.... just saying......
Social distancing is hard to do in a factory environment
 

The Pope

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Yes, but Deere is doing it....
 

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Social distancing is difficult in many different lines of work. Our building (metal wall panel installer/manufacturer) has our engineering department desks within arms reach of everyone.

But here are my thoughts on the workers comments. Guess what people, we all at some point will need to work again. Businesses can't keep paying people who aren't working. Unemployment benefits will dry up. And the Federal Government can't keep paying people every month when they aren't collecting taxes. Don't get me wrong, ALL governments waste revenue like crazy, but to think this can go on for a year or so is crazy thinking.

And answer this, out of these workers bitching about working (and throwing around how unsafe it is), how many of them will hit the bars the moment states start to relax on everything? It's up to us to be as safe as WE can. And it's up to our places of work to provide a safe environment as well.
 

BuckedOff-Road

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Ford cannot continue to pay out hundreds of millions indefinitely...
 

FirstOnRaceDay

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Yes, but Deere is doing it....
1 according to their website their Illinois And Iowa’s plants have been closed since early April.
2 the plants that are open are in very low hit areas (Georgia, Mexico, Dakota)
michigan especially metro Detroit is one of the top 5 hit areas in the USA
 

indio22

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Social distancing is difficult in many different lines of work. Our building (metal wall panel installer/manufacturer) has our engineering department desks within arms reach of everyone.

But here are my thoughts on the workers comments. Guess what people, we all at some point will need to work again. Businesses can't keep paying people who aren't working. Unemployment benefits will dry up. And the Federal Government can't keep paying people every month when they aren't collecting taxes. Don't get me wrong, ALL governments waste revenue like crazy, but to think this can go on for a year or so is crazy thinking.

And answer this, out of these workers bitching about working (and throwing around how unsafe it is), how many of them will hit the bars the moment states start to relax on everything? It's up to us to be as safe as WE can. And it's up to our places of work to provide a safe environment as well.
Some people are treating this coronavirus situation like an extended indoor party. Liquor stores are open in my area as "essential businesses". Probably these people sitting around will die of coronary disease (#1 overall killer in USA) before coronavirus.

Obesity (40% epidemic in USA) and reduced cardio/lung functioning (out of shape) are key drivers of coronavirus mortality in non-elderly people. The irony is, some of these folks who fear coronavirus, are priming themselves for coronavirus related complications.

Related to manufacturing plants, a co-worker of mine who works with Caterpillar, told me they were still open. Perhaps that has changed recently, but it's what I heard and read online. Maybe Caterpillar figured out some ways to limit employee exposure on the lines to keep some facilities open.
 

The Pope

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1 according to their website their Illinois And Iowa’s plants have been closed since early April.
2 the plants that are open are in very low hit areas (Georgia, Mexico, Dakota)
michigan especially metro Detroit is one of the top 5 hit areas in the USA
My factory (which you didn't list) is open and production is running. Granted, the production line isn't moving as fast as it was prior to all of this crap, but it is moving. Employees are wearing protective gear and the different product lines are staggering day on/off, but product is being made.

Job 1 is employee safety and all things are not posted (and will not be) on the website.

.....and that's all I'm going to say in regards to my factory/company.
 

chipbutty

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Some people are treating this coronavirus situation like an extended indoor party. Liquor stores are open in my area as "essential businesses". Probably these people sitting around will die of coronary disease (#1 overall killer in USA) before coronavirus.

Obesity (40% epidemic in USA) and reduced cardio/lung functioning (out of shape) are key drivers of coronavirus mortality in non-elderly people. The irony is, some of these folks who fear coronavirus, are priming themselves for coronavirus related complications.

Related to manufacturing plants, a co-worker of mine who works with Caterpillar, told me they were still open. Perhaps that has changed recently, but it's what I heard and read online. Maybe Caterpillar figured out some ways to limit employee exposure on the lines to keep some facilities open.
Liquor stores are open to prevent an influx of detoxing alcoholics hitting the hospitals.
 



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