The United Auto Workers union is throwing a wrench into any thoughts by Detroit automakers of restarting factories soon.
Union President Rory Gamble says an early May restart date is too soon and too risky for union members. “At this point in time the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace,” Gamble said in a statement.
The statement Thursday comes as other automakers announced plans to restart their North American factories, which have been closed for more than a month to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Toyota said Thursday its restart will begin gradually the week of May 4 in the U.S. and Canada. The company is still waiting for word from the Mexican government on when to restart.
Toyota plans to give workers masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and face shields where needed. It will install dividers to keep employees six feet or more apart, and it will take their temperatures before they enter plants.
On Wednesday, Volkswagen announced it will restart its Tennessee plant May 3, while Mercedes will reopen in Alabama on Monday. Hyundai will restart in Alabama May 4, the same day BMW plans to restart its South Carolina plant. Nissan plans a mid-May reopening, and Subaru will restart on May 11.
Fiat Chrysler had a May 4 restart date, with Ford and General Motors expected around the same time. But the union statement will almost inevitably delay that.
Also, Honda is adding a week to its shutdown. The company says it will continue to keep its automobile plants closed through May 8.
Detroit automakers employ about 150,000 factory workers in the U.S., while international manufacturers have about 85,000.