AUTOMOBILE INDUSTRY

UAW criticizes plans to restart production

Ford and Fiat Chrysler drew heated language from the United Auto Workers by issuing plans to restart production at U.S. plants as the union confirmed two more of its members have died.

After halting North American output last week as the coronavirus spread across the United States, the carmakers said Thursday they will keep their factories shut until at least April 14. Ford announced several key facilities it plans to reopen on that date, while Fiat Chrysler said its decisions will depend on states’ stay-at-home orders and plant readiness.

“We are reviewing with great concern and caution today’s announcement,” the UAW said within 40 minutes of Ford releasing its statement. Rory Gamble, the union’s president, added later: “The only guideline in a boardroom should be management asking themselves, ‘Would I send my family — my own son or daughter — into that plant and be 100 percent certain they are safe?’”

Tension between the UAW and carmakers is likely to remain high as Ford, Fiat Chrysler and General Motors seek to get assembly lines running again. Two union members who worked at separate Fiat Chrysler plants in Michigan died after contracting covid-19, a union spokesman confirmed Thursday, after two others in Michigan and Indiana died last week.

The two Fiat Chrysler employees who died this week worked at two facilities north of Detroit: its truck factory in Warren and a transport operation in Sterling Heights. The two who died last week were on staff at the Sterling Heights pickup assembly plant and a facility in Kokomo, Ind.

GM doesn’t have firm return-to-work dates at this time, a spokesman said.

Ford said it will put in place additional safety measures to protect returning workers as it brings factories back online. The company has had employees at plants in Wayne, Mich., and Louisville test positive for the virus.

— Bloomberg News

RETAIL

Kentucky Amazon facility ordered closed

Amazon says its returns warehouse in Kentucky where three workers tested positive for covid-19 has been closed by the order of the state’s governor, and the online retailer aims to reopen the facility next week.

Amazon on Monday evening had informed employees of the Shepherdsville, Ky., warehouse that the facility would be closed for 48 hours for cleaning after it identified three workers sickened by the disease caused by the coronavirus. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

On Wednesday, hours before the warehouse — called SDF9 — was scheduled to reopen, Amazon told workers it would be idled until further notice for more cleaning, the first known case of Amazon shutting a U.S. facility due to the pandemic without a scheduled end date.

In an emailed statement on Thursday, Amazon said that the facility remains closed at the order of Gov. Andy Beshear (D).

An executive order set to take effect Thursday evening requires all businesses in Kentucky to close unless they provide life-sustaining services, or meet certain other exceptions. Amazon, however, said SDF9 was closed by a separate order specific to the site. The governor’s office didn’t immediately comment.

— Bloomberg News

Also in Business

The Metropolitan Opera, one of New York City's cultural icons, had its credit rating cut to junk after canceling its season because of the coronavirus epidemic. Moody's Investors Service downgraded $89 million of the opera's taxable municipal debt two levels, to Ba1, and revised its outlook to negative. The opera, one of the largest cultural institutions in the United States, has launched a campaign to raise $60 million to offset box office losses.

Major Google services including YouTube, video-calling and Gmail were hit by partial outages Thursday while the Internet giant's infrastructure is experiencing record usage during the coronavirus pandemic. Urs Holzle, who overseas Google's data centers, said the problem came from a router failure in Atlanta and wasn't virus-related.

Coming today

8:30 a.m.: Commerce Department releases personal income and spending for February.

— From news services