Big 3 automakers to close factories amid coronavirus concerns, according to AP source

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Workers assemble cars at the newly renovated Ford’s Assembly Plant in Chicago, June 24, 2019. – The plant was revamped to build the Ford Explorer, Police Interceptor Utility and Lincoln Aviator. (Photo by JIM YOUNG / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

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DETROIT — 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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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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