By on July 2, 2020

2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel

Despite new health measures incorporating physical distancing, barriers, and personal protective equipment, working on a factory floor is undoubtedly a tense experience for many these days. That certainly seems to be the case at Fiat Chrysler, which issued a warning to its hourly workers over the weekend.

As reported by Bloomberg, the warning comes after production stopped at two U.S. assembly plants amid workers’ fear of a lurking virus. Do that again, and expect a smaller paycheck, FCA replied.

The two unplanned work stoppages occurred at some point last week and on June 27th at FCA’s Jefferson North plant, home of the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Dodge Durango, and Sterling Heights Assembly, manufacturing base for the Ram 1500.

In the former scenario, plant workers refused to continue working after suspecting a coworker was ill with COVID-19; according to Bloomberg, that employee later tested negative. In the latter incident, staff rebelled after claiming their work stations weren’t sufficiently disinfected after another worker left the facility for a coronavirus test.

This kind of thing was bound to crop up, and workers’ concerns for their own health is something employers should never ignore. If you’ve never fully trusted your employer, you’ve likely never worked (that, or you’re a naive political flack).

In response to the temporary stoppages, Mike Resha, Fiat Chrysler’s head of North American manufacturing, wrote in a June 28th letter, “Unauthorized work stoppages in our facilities create both disruption, and, potentially, safety concerns, and therefore cannot be tolerated,”  adding that unplanned production shutdowns “will result in zero pay.”

From Bloomberg:

A representative for Fiat Chrysler declined to comment on the letter. The company agreed to tighten health screening procedures for workers entering plants and dispatch cleaners to work areas within 15 minutes of being notified, Resha wrote. He also warned any employee who is untruthful in health-screening questionnaires that staff are required to fill out before entering facilities will be fired.

Given the prevalence and virulence of the virus, no health protocol that allows a business to stay in operation is going to be perfect. That said, no protocol is beyond reproach; better is always possible. Given that automakers are struggling to churn out trucks and SUVs after nearly two months of cash-burning, revenue-slashing lockdown, plant workers aren’t without leverage. Both workers and their employers have the other over a barrel, though the latter party has deeper pockets.

Earlier this week, General Motors rejected a request from a UAW local to temporarily halt SUV production at the automaker’s Arlington assembly plant amid a regional rise in coronavirus infections. Advantage: GM. Rewind the clock a handful of months, however, and GM was facing a 6-week walkout. Advantage: worker.

[Image: Matthew Guy/TTAC]

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