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UAW calls for two-week shutdown of auto plants in US due to coronavirus

UAW calls for two-week shutdown of auto plants in US due to coronavirus
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The United Auto Workers (UAW) union asked the "Big Three" automakers to shut down amid the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States.

The request comes after UAW, Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler on Sunday created a coronavirus task force to address the pandemic.

Last week, Ford and General Motors told employees who are able to work from home to do so beginning Monday, and the companies asked UAW for a 48-hour time frame to create a plan for manufacturing workers. 

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Amid discussions, UAW asked for a two-week shutdown of the companies’ U.S. operations, but the request was denied. 

“Your UAW leadership feels very strongly, and argued very strongly, that this is the most responsible course of action,” UAW President Rory Gamble wrote. “The companies, however, were not willing to implement this request.”

The deadline to create further safeguards expires Tuesday afternoon, and in a letter addressed to membership, Gamble said that if union leadership “are not satisfied that our members will be protected, we will take this conversation to the next level.”

Though it’s unclear exactly how UAW would respond to an inadequate offer, Gamble said they are prepared to use “any and all measures to protect our brothers and sisters who are working in their facilities.”

The UAW confirmed the first case of COVID-19 in a member on March 12: a Fiat Chrysler worker in a plant in Indiana, a facility that has yet to shut down.

Fiat Chrysler "has already implemented extensive protocols to ensure the health and welfare of our workforce,” a spokesperson said in an email Tuesday. “We are continuing to carefully monitor the situation and are making improvements as needed."

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Gamble said another update would be sent to membership later Tuesday, after a 6 p.m. meeting the union scheduled with the companies.

"It's unclear what the outcome of that is going to be," Jim Cain, a spokesman for General Motors, told The Hill.

Ford and Fiat Chrysler did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The automobile industry has been particularly hard-hit by the global coronavirus outbreak, with operations in major industrial regions such as northern Italy and central China shutting down completely under government decrees.