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GM’s Plan To Restart Factories Now: What Could Go Wrong?

Oh, God! Now GM has a plan to reopen its factories by taking certain measures to “protect” its workers from coronavirus. Nothing could go wrong with this, right? This grand plan will pit profits over people, but that’s not how GM sees it. The cash flow must continue. Unabated. Look, we know the coronavirus lockdowns must be rolling accountants’ eyes back into their heads. We know this is making 2008’s Great Recession look like a day at the races. But the bottom line can’t be money. The bottom line has got to be people over profits. That said, here’s GM’s plan.

GM’s got a plan and it’s temperature screening

The head of GM’s workplace safety is Jim Glynn. He’s got the plan and it goes like this: temperature screening. So far we know that no UAW members at GM have died from the coronavirus. That shows whatever measures GM took leading up to the plant shutdowns worked, or it just got lucky.

UAW workers | Getty

Glynn says that temperature screening is the big thing. Also, daily health questionnaires, redesigning assembly lines to distance workers three to six feet apart, and lots of masks and gloves will do the trick. Everyone will be safe and coronavirus free. Easy peasy. 

At least seven Ford-UAW workers and 11 FCA-UAW workers have died

But, at least seven Ford-UAW members have died from the virus. At least 11 FCA-UAW workers have died due to becoming infected from the coronavirus. And, at least one person at Hyundai’s Montgomery, Alabama, plant has died from coronavirus. Who knows why some plants fared better than others? 

“We know the protocols to keep people safe,” said Gerald Johnson, GM executive vice president for global manufacturing in a Reuters interview. While most of GM’s plants have shut down, it has reopened assembly plants in China. It was also able to keep plants open in South Korea. 

Health officials and both federal and state authorities say no company should lift lockdowns any time soon. Brian Collie, who heads the Boston Consulting Group, says it’s GM floating it is ready to open. This is intended to signal for suppliers to assemble their workers to begin cranking out components to feed the GM beast.

UAW workers | Getty

Companies are anxious to turn back on the cash flow flood

Companies are anxious to start back up to turn on the cash flow flood. Automakers in Europe want to begin production in a couple of weeks. Fiat Chrysler, Honda, and Toyota have all stated their intent to restart production at the beginning of May. Some non-union manufacturers want to start up assembly lines as early as next week according to Automotive News. 

Of course, it’s not strictly up to the car companies. The UAW is always part of the deal. For its part, UAW President Roy Gamble said the union “is in deep discussions with all three companies to plan ahead over the implementation of CDC safety standards.” Workers’ families are also a concern.

What about asymptomatic workers?

What we’d like to know is how does one protect themselves from a coworker that is asymptomatic? If they are a carrier but show no signs then are they leaving traces of the virus on everything they touch? If they install a seat and then 10 other workers sit in the seat can they get infected? We can see too many scenarios for this to be failsafe. 

And what would happen if after cranking things back up one or two workers get infected? That could close things down for months. Why would GM want to take that risk? Oh wait, it’s GM.