General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler, with the approval of the United Auto Workers, have asked for volunteers from among blue-collar employees to keep their parts warehouses all across the country during the unfolding pandemic.
All three automakers have shuttered their assembly and manufacturing plants, often under some intense pressure from employees, at the end of last week. The plants are scheduled to remain closed until the end of the week, though the shutdowns could be extended.
Honda, Toyota, Nissan, Hyundai, Kia and Volkswagen also have closed their manufacturing operations in the face of the spread of the lethal virus, which has now claimed hundreds of lives.
However, automakers, which have pledged to do what they can to help during the virus emergency, which also rattled equity markets and has brought the United States economy to a grinding halt for the first time since the end of the Great Recession in 2009.
A GM spokesman said in an e-mail the company has been seeking hourly employees “to raise their hands to work. We intend to operate our entire system going forward at the highest capacity level we can achieve,” the spokesman said.
“GM and the UAW have reached an agreement that will allow us to continue delivering service and repair pars to our dealers and customers, including the police agencies, fire departments and emergency service providers, who rely on our vehicles all over the country,” the GM statement noted.
Brian Rothenberg, the UAW’s director of communications, said in an e-mail that the union also had signed similar agreement with FCA and Ford so they could also continue to funnel parts to dealers through their warehouses.
The union stressed the warehouses will be staffed by volunteers during the emergency. Employees who elect not to work will be eligible for unemployment compensation and sub-pay as required by the union contract with the automakers.
Overtime and other special assignments are assigned based on basis of seniority with longer serving employees have the right to work extra hours for extra pay. The reliance on seniority has been waived for the emergency.