Detroit automakers suspend operations amid coronavirus concerns

UAW officials have been asking Detroit automakers for some time to close their plants amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

On Wednesday, they got what they wanted.

In a press release posted to its website, General Motors said Thursday it will begin a systematic, orderly suspension of manufacturing operations in North America.

The shutdown is due to market conditions, to deep-clean facilities and continue to protect people. The suspension will last until at least March 30, after which date production status will be reevaluated week-to-week.

“GM and the UAW have always put the health and safety of the people entering GM plants first, and we have agreed to a systematic, orderly suspension of production to aid in fighting COVID-19/coronavirus,” said GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra. “We have been taking extraordinary precautions around the world to keep our plant environments safe and recent developments in North America make it clear this is the right thing to do now. I appreciate the teamwork of UAW President Rory Gamble, UAW Vice President Terry Dittes and local leadership as we take this unprecedented step.”

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Gamble said UAW members, their families and “our communities will benefit from today’s announcement with the certainty that we are doing all that we can to protect our health and safety during this pandemic.

“This will give us time to review best practices and to prevent the spread of this disease. We appreciate General Motors’ actions today and will continue to work with them on health and safety plans to be implemented when we resume production.”

Ford Motor Co. also announced a closure, saying the company will suspend production at its North American plants, also through March 30, to clean facilities and boost coronavirus containment efforts.

Information on plans at Fiat Chrysler wasn’t immediately available.