Ford Motor Co. announced on Thursday that it will begin reopening its North American manufacturing facilities with a phased restart on May 18.
The announcement comes the same day as a decision by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to allow the state’s auto plants to reopen starting at 25% capacity beginning May 11.
Automakers including Ford began idling its plants in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico in mid-March, when it was clear that even small gatherings could become hot spots for spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Ford’s plan calls for operations and production workers to make a staggered return in the next few weeks. The timeline is as follows:
May 11: Ford’s North American parts depot fully reopens
May 18: North American assembly plants previously on three shifts will return with two shifts. One-shift and most two-shift plants will operate on one shift.
May 25: The Flat Rock Assembly Plant in Michigan and the Oakville Assembly Complex in Ontario resume production.
In addition, some 12,000 workers in IT, product development, facilities management and other “location dependent” areas will be returning in a “staggered” timeline. Ford did not specify any further details on that timing.
Jim Farley, Ford’s chief operating officer, said in a statement that the automaker has been in close contact with federal and state governments, the union, and workers in a cross-section of roles. He said that Ford is using the lessons it learned reopening plants in China and Europe and from making medical equipment for the past six weeks “to ensure we are taking the right precautions to keep our workforce here safe.”
Rory L. Gamble, president of the United Autoworkers union which represents Ford manufacturing workers, promised that the UAW’s first priority would be to protect worker health and safety. “We continue to advocate for as much testing as possible at the current time and eventually full testing when available,” Gamble said.
Ford’s safety protocols include:
- Requiring all employees and visitors to “self-certify” that they do not have symptoms—if they do have symptoms or have been exposed to someone with the virus, they must not come to work.
- No-touch temperature scans before entering the facility. Those with a “raised temperature” will not be admitted into the building.
- Face masks for everyone entering a Ford facility, and face shields for those whose jobs don’t require social distancing.
- Increased time between shifts for staggered arrivals and exits and additional cleaning.