Detroit automakers to idle 150,000 workers due to coronavirus: sources

The United Auto Workers union has been pushing for factories to close

Detroit (AP) — Detroit's three automakers have agreed to close all of their factories due to worker fears about the coronavirus, two people briefed on the matter said Wednesday.

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Automakers are expected to release details of the closure later in the day. The United Auto Workers union has been pushing for factories to close because workers are fearful of coming into contact with the virus.

The people didn't want to be identified because the closures have not been formally announced.

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The decision reverses a deal worked out late Tuesday in which the automakers would cancel some shifts so they could thoroughly cleanse equipment and buildings, but keep factories open.

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But workers, especially at some Fiat Chrysler factories, were still fearful and were pressuring the union to seek full closures.

In this Sept. 27, 2018, file photo a United Auto Workers assemblymen work on a 2018 Ford F-150 trucks being assembled at the Ford Rouge assembly plant in Dearborn, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Fiat Chrysler temporarily closed a factory in Sterling Heights, Michigan, north of Detroit after workers were concerned about the virus. The company said a plant worker tested positive for the coronavirus but had not been to work in over a week. One shift was sent home Tuesday night and the plant was cleaned. But that apparently didn't satisfy workers, and two more shifts were canceled on Wednesday.

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Under an agreement reached with the union, companies will monitor the situation weekly to decide if the plants can reopen, one of the people said.

Honda Motor Co. announced Wednesday that it will temporarily close its North American factories for about one week starting on Monday.

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The move by General Motors, Fiat Chrysler and Ford will idle about 150,000 auto workers. They likely will receive supplemental pay in addition to state unemployment benefits. The two checks combined will about equal what the workers normally make.

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Automakers have resisted closing factories largely because they book revenue when vehicles are shipped from factories to dealerships. So without production, revenue dries up. Each company has other reasons to stay open as well. Ford, for instance, is building up F-150 pickup inventory because its plants will have to go out of service later this year to be retooled for an all-new model.