Minivan production at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles’ assembly plant in Windsor, Ont., resumed Friday afternoon after union concerns about the coronavirus brought production there to a screeching halt for about 24 hours.
FCA Canada says Unifor workers walked off their jobs late Thursday after one member decided to self-quarantine as a precaution. That worker had possible secondary contact with an individual who has undergone testing for the new coronavirus.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the Windsor Assembly Plant, the automaker said Friday. In fact, there are currently no confirmed cases in Windsor or surrounding Essex County, according to the local health unit. The overall risk is low for residents of Windsor and Essex County, the health unit said.
However, several people in the community have symptoms of the virus and are being or have been tested, according to the local health unit.
“There currently is one [FCA] employee out on self-quarantine as a precaution because of possible secondary contact.” FCA spokeswoman Lou Ann Gosselin said in a statement. “As a result, plant employees [were] concerned about possible exposure and…refused to work since mid-afternoon on March 12.
“The Ministry of Labour visited the plant on March 12 to investigate, and determined our protocols and work environment to be safe.”
But Gosselin said the plant remained idled Friday until about 3 p.m. ET as employees refused to return to work for about 24 hours. Production resumes in time for the afternoon shift.
“We continue to monitor the situation carefully and take precautions to safeguard the health and welfare of the FCA family.”
About 6,500 workers build the Chrysler Pacifica and Voyager and Dodge Grand Caravan in Windsor.
Unifor President Jerry Dias said he was not aware of any other auto assembly plants or supplier factories in Canada that have been shut down by the coronavirus. Still, he said that is likely to change and said this could be “a disaster in the making” for auto assembly as plants shut down.
“This thing is spreading, and I think it’s only a matter of time,” he said. “I’m praying I’m wrong, but it’s only a matter of time until there’s an impact in one of the suppliers or one of the assembly plants. People are legitimately concerned.”
Dias said workers at factories are taking extra precautions, including using more hand sanitizer, wearing additional protective gear and other measures. He also said the union shut down its head office in Toronto today as a precautionary measure and is having employees there work from home.
“There’s no question everyone is doing everything possible to remain safe,” he said.
FCA on Thursday once again extended the life of the midnight shift at the minivan plant. The automaker has been attempting to end production on the third shift for nearly a year, but continues to change the end date.
“FCA notified Unifor today that it is adjusting the start date of the two-shift operation at the Windsor Assembly Plant to begin on July 13,” Gosselin said Thursday.
She declined to elaborate.
The work refusal in Windsor began not long after a worker at Fiat Chrysler Automobiles' transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind., tested positive for the coronavirus. Production at that facility is continuing.
The UAW is working closely with Fiat Chrysler on measures necessary to protect its members, vice-president Cindy Estrada said in a statement.
Bloomberg and John Irwin of Automotive News Canada contributed to this report.