FCA Canada and Unifor are discussing implementing new safety protocols including mandatory temperature checks and dividers installed between work stations in close proximity to each other as the automaker eyes restarting U.S. and Canadian manufacturing beginning May 4, according to a local union official.
“In the end, we want to make sure that our members are well protected if they are going to go back,” said Jaspal Brar, president of Unifor Local 1285, which represents workers at the FCA assembly plant in Brampton, Ont. “We need to make sure all proper safeguards are taken and to ensure as much safety as possible.”
Brar said plans currently call for the Brampton plant, which builds the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Dodge Challenger, to come back online as a one-shift operation to allow for production to ramp back up and to make it easier to adjust safety protocols if needed. Brampton Assembly, like FCA’s Windsor, Ont., plant, has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In an email to Automotive News Canada, FCA Canada spokeswoman LouAnn Gosselin would only say that FCA plans to “progressively restart” Canadian and American manufacturing on May 4, with its “restart cadence” being confirmed “at the appropriate time.”
The automaker was working with Unifor and government officials to “implement new procedures to certify the daily wellness of our workforce while also redesigning work stations to maintain proper social distancing and expanding the already extensive cleaning protocols at all locations,” she said.
According to Brar, measures being discussed include taking employees’ temperatures before they enter the building, workers being given personal protective equipment such as gloves and facemasks and dividers being installed between stations that require workers to be close to one another. Work stations and common areas such as eating areas and restrooms would undergo frequent deep cleaning, he said.
Brar said the discussions about the Brampton plant are taking place with the May 4 restart date in mind, though he cautioned that the date could change if it’s determined it would be unsafe to reopen then.
“It is the 4th at the moment, but it’s changed twice already in the past. If and when that comes around, then we’ll see,” Brar said. “We understand that people need to work, and so do the employers. They want to start up their businesses. But this isn’t something where we just want to rush in until people are safeguarded.”
Automotive News reported on April 16 that FCA aimed to reopen the Windsor minivan plant on May 18, two weeks after a projected start date for Brampton.
Unifor Local 444 President Dave Cassidy, who represents workers at the Windsor plant, said in Facebook post Wednesday afternoon that he is schedule to have a conference call with company executives on Thursday evening.
The safety discussions between FCA and Unifor come as the Detroit Three automakers and the United Auto Workers union discuss how to safely re-open plants in the United States. Discussions in the U.S. have revolved around similar safety procedures as those discussed in Canada, in addition to local unions pushing for paid sick leave, according to a Reuters report.
It was not immediately known what conversations between Unifor and General Motors and Ford Motor Co. have entailed, though the Canadian CEOs of all three Detroit automakers and union president Jerry Dias sit on a task force charged with implementing enhanced safety measures at their plants.
In a statement emailed to Automotive News Canada, GM Canada spokeswoman Jennifer Wright said the automaker has yet to announce a “firm date” to restart North American production and is “evaluating the situation regularly.”
“When we do resume production, we will be following safety procedures developed to support ventilator and mask production in the U.S., as well as the guidelines from the World Health Organization and the Public Health Agency of Canada, including extensive screening and cleaning, along with the use of masks,” Wright said.
Lauren More, a spokeswoman for Ford of Canada, wrote in a statement that the company would continue to “assess public health conditions, government guidelines and supplier readiness to determine when the time is right to resume production in our North American plants.”
Voicemails left for Dias and other Unifor officials were not returned.