An employee at Fiat Chrysler’s Windsor Assembly Plant works inside the chassis of the Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid in December 2016.
Fiat Chrysler’s minivan plant in Canada has halted production following workers refusing to work amid concerns of an employee contracting the coronavirus.
There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the plant, however there is an employee “out on self-quarantine as a precaution because of possible secondary contact,” Fiat Chrysler said in an emailed statement Friday.
Windsor Assembly plant workers walked out mid-afternoon Thursday, and the facility remains idled, according to the company and Canadian union Unifor, which represents the workers.
“People are nervous,” Unifor President Jerry Dias told CNBC. “The unfortunate reality is, and I’m praying that I’m wrong, but, we’re going to be seeing a lot more of this … Things are changing so quickly … Every day you wake up and it’s worse.”
Dias said the union stands behind its members’ decision to not work if they don’t feel it’s safe. “People are afraid to catch something at work at take it home to their children,” he said. “I understand why people are nervous.”
Fiat Chrysler said Canada’s Ministry of Labor visited the plant on Thursday to investigate and determined its “protocols and work environment to be safe.”
“We are working with the local union and Unifor leadership as well as government officials to address this issue in order to restart production as soon as possible,” the company said. “We continue to monitor the situation carefully and take precautions to safeguard the health and welfare of the FCA family.”
Unifor represents more than 315,000 members across the country in major sectors of the Canadian economy, including transportation, health care and automotive.
Dias said the union has identified some members as testing positive for COVID-19, however none, to his knowledge, have worked in the automotive industry.
The Canadian government reports there have been more than 150 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, mainly in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for the disease.
The Windsor Assembly plant employs nearly 5,900 people, including more than 5,600 hourly workers. It is located in southern Ontario, across a river from downtown Detroit. The plant produces all versions of the Chrysler Pacifica and Dodge Grand Caravan minivans.
Fiat Chrysler is the only automaker to confirm a plant employee tested positive for COVID-19. The company on Thursday confirmed a UAW member at its Kokomo Transmission plant in Indiana contracted the disease. Those who may have come into direct contact with the person have been quarantined.