LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Louisville-based GE Appliances is cutting shifts or pausing work entirely at Appliance Park and its other plants in Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee starting Friday in response to the coronavirus.
But the appliance manufacturer still plans to operate daytime shifts even as some workers say close proximity to their co-workers puts them at risk.
“Following global health guidance from the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and (World Health Organization,) it is our goal to alleviate anticipated stress on the healthcare system and to flatten the curve of the virus,” the company said in a statement Wednesday evening.
The changes take effect Friday, March 20 and will last through April 3.
Asked how the scaled back production plan protect workers who still need to come in, GE Appliance spokeswoman Julie Wood said: "We are reducing the overall number of people in our operations. We are also taking many other precautions and cleaning measures."
The head of the local union that represents about 3,800 rank-and-file workers at Appliance Park told WDRB on Monday that he was “frustrated and dumbfounded” at the company’s decision to keep work going.
Dino Driskell, president of IUE-CWA Local 83-761, said a temporary shutdown would be safer, even it means workers have to file for unemployment benefits and draw on their union-negotiated income assistance.
“By the time you have been running a fever, you’ve been coughing and you’ve been forced to come to work. Now you’ve taken it home to your family. Who all else have we exposed to that?” Driskell said.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.
Wood, of GE Appliances, said Tuesday that there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at Appliance Park.
GE Appliances said it will halt production in one of its Appliance Park buildings and scale back work at three others.
“We are reducing production at many of our facilities and will focus on critical products our country needs,” the company said. “We provide important products and services to people across this country while Americans are spending more time at home. Americans rely on our products to keep their food and medicine safe, homes clean and to cook meals for their families.”
The company said distribution centers will remain open and that it will continue to deliver and service appliances.
Here is the company’s list of the changes:
AP1 – operating 1 washer line and 1 dryer line on day shift
AP3 – operating 1 line on day shift
AP4 – reduced operations to support ongoing manufacturing
AP5 – halting production
Roper Corporation – 1 line per shift
Decatur Plant Operations – 1 line per shift
Monogram LLC – halting production
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