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Autoworker sent home with COVID-19 issues just days before Big 3 reopen

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Posted at 4:28 PM, May 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-14 10:01:29-04

STERLING HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) — 7 Action News has learned that at least one team leader working this week inside the FCA Sterling Heights Assembly Plant has been sent home just days before the phasing-in of Big 3 production.

Tina, who does not want us to use her last name, says one worker went home today and says another yesterday. However, FCA responded in a statement to 7 Action News confirming that only one worker at the plant has tested positive for COVID-19.

“SHAP” as it is called is one of the first plants to shut down at the beginning of the outbreak in March.

Tina says workers are concerned adding, “So now we have 3,000 people coming back. What do you think’s going to happen? We’re going to have a freakin’ outbreak here.”

FCA responded in a letter to workers saying,

Dear colleagues,

As we progressively restart our operations around the world, we are rigorously deploying the safety protocols, developed in conjunction with our Unions, to protect all of our employees.

These protocols are multi layered to ensure that appropriate protection is in place throughout our facilities.

The reason we have developed multi layered protection is because we want to provide an environment that is protected by two key safety protocols. The first is to prevent, where possible, anyone who is infected with COVID-19 from entering our facilities and because this can not always be guaranteed, the second and most important protocol is to ensure the personal protection of each of our colleagues when they are working in one of our facilities.

For example, today we had an instance where one of our colleagues at our Sterling Heights Assembly plants was tested positive for COVID-19. I am pleased to say that our protocols worked as envisaged. The person was isolated and quarantined, more importantly our social distancing and personal protection equipment protocols were in full use. Face masks and safety glasses which are now mandatory in our plants, and are issued as people enter, were being worn and this along with the newly installed protective barriers between certain stations on our assembly line illustrated the depth and professionalism of the planning that has been put in place to prepare for the opening of our plants and the protection of our people.

We were also able, as a result of our review of the protocols and how they worked, to strengthen the criteria for entering a facility.

This is a great opportunity for me to remind you to study in detail the Return to Work information that has been sent to you. Our protocols are designed to provide safety measures at multiple points and on multiple levels. In the case of our colleague at Sterling Heights, her co-workers at the plant were protected by the face masks and eyeglasses we provide each day, protected by the measures created to enforce social distancing and protected by the deep cleaning and sanitization of workstations.

Be it at the grocery store, the gas station or at work, we know that COVID-19 is something we should constantly be aware of. As we restart our business, we know that the complete implementation of our safety protocols is the most effective way we can create a safe and secure working environment. It is also important to make sure we all take equally sensible precautions outside of work.

While none of us want to see anyone impacted by COVID-19, if and when we have colleagues affected, we have the layers of safety protocols designed to protect us all.

I would like to thank everyone who has worked so hard to ensure our manufacturing facilities are ready to return to production next week but most importantly, with the health and safety of our employees uppermost in mind.

Thank you.

The Big 3 Detroit automakers say they have put in place extensive safety protocols ahead of the phased-in production set to resume on Monday. Some 150,000 autoworkers will be going back on the job in Michigan and other states.

Many UAW members are calling for testing before they return to work. Top UAW leaders were all tested and had to be negative to be able to continue working inside an office building in Southfield. That went viral on social media.

UAW President Rory Gamble then wrote to the rank and file that the UAW is an employer and needs to keep workers safe. He also said they’ve told the Big 3 automakers and other employers the union expects as much testing as possible to be conducted.

GM in a state to 7 Action News said in part:

The testing will be used for employees who arrive to work with symptoms (for example – high temperature at entrance screening). They will be sent to plant medical office for testing – and will be sent home (tests sent to outside lab – 24-48 hours for results).

Many workers say they don’t want to become new hot spots like meat packing plants. The Big 3 say they have opened plants in other countries and have kept workers safe.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story stated that two FCA workers were sent home due to contracting COVID-19. This was based on a tip from a worker. FCA has since responded saying that only one worker has tested positive for COVID-19.

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