Coronavirus outbreak: Fiat allows work from home but keeps factories running
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is having office employees worldwide work remotely while production staff keep many of its factories running -- including one where a worker tested positive for the coronavirus.
Salaried personnel, including 14,000 at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Michigan, are being told to work from home as of Thursday, a spokesman said. The automaker also temporarily shut plants in Italy for cleaning as it tries to help combat spread of the virus in the country, where more than 1,000 have died.
But the Italian-American automaker’s U.S. factories are continuing production, including one making transmissions in Indiana. A worker there tested positive for Covid-19 and is receiving medical care, a spokeswoman said earlier Thursday. Those who worked nearby or may have come in contact with him have been put in home quarantine.
The personnel moves are the latest by Fiat Chrysler to keep a company with almost 200,000 staff operating even as supply chains and demand around the world are disrupted by a pandemic. The automaker’s U.S. shares plunged Thursday by the most since its 2014 merger, falling 15% to close at the lowest since December 2016.
Fiat Chrysler declined to provide the Indiana worker’s name, age or other personal information such as his recent travel history for privacy reasons. The carmaker has disinfected his work station and is sanitizing the entire plant, which employs roughly 4,000. Output is running at a normal pace, but the company is adjusting break times to avoid crowding and deploying social spacing to increase distances between workers.
The United Auto Workers is working closely with Fiat Chrysler on measures to protect its members, Cindy Estrada, a vice president of the union, said in a statement.
Just last week, Mark Stewart, Fiat Chrysler’s chief operations officer for North America, visited Kokomo, Indiana, to christen a new investment at an idled transmission plant that will be re-purposed for engine production. He said the company’s crisis teams were monitoring supply risks and that travel had been curtailed due to the virus, but operations were “progressing OK."
The company does not foresee any production shutdowns in the U.S., Simon Sproule, its chief communications officer, said Thursday.
A day after Michigan announced its first coronavirus cases, Fiat Chrysler said it would limit in-person meetings, rely on video conferencing and refuse visitors from countries with acute outbreaks.
The company said Wednesday it may have to close some parts factories in northern Italy to support a nationwide campaign to contain the virus. It’s slowing production at some plants there to enable greater spacing between workers.