UAW negotiating paid leave for Fiat Chrysler workers over coronavirus

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Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Chrysler Group headquarters

Bill Pugliano | Getty Images

The United Auto Workers is in negotiations with Fiat Chrysler and other companies regarding compensation for quarantined employees being monitored for the coronavirus.

Such circumstances are not directly addressed in the union’s contract with Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford Motor, according to officials. Some workers also do not qualify for sick days or the amount of sick days needed for quarantine if they contracted COVID-19 and would not be paid.

GM said Friday that all of its salaried and hourly employees, including the roughly 48,000 UAW-represented workers, if needed, would receive paid leave in connection to the coronavirus.

The discussions follow officials on Thursday confirming a UAW member at Fiat Chrysler’s Kokomo Transmission plant in Indiana contracted the disease. An undisclosed amount of the others who may have come into direct contact with the person have been quarantined.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada, who oversees the union’s Fiat Chrysler workers, told CNBC that the union would like all employees who are sick or being quarantined to qualify for paid leave.

“The UAW and [Fiat Chrysler] are working together during this unprecedented and challenging situation to address issues on a case by case basis,” Estrada said in an email. “The UAW feels strongly that no member should be disadvantaged in response to the COVID-19 process. Our first priority is to ensure the health and welfare of our members.”

Estrada, on a call, said she believes Fiat Chrysler “will do the right thing” for its workers, many of whom live “paycheck to paycheck” and “want to know what’s going on.” She credited the company for its quick response to the infected employee and identifying who the unnamed infected worker had come in contact with at the factory.

UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada speaks during an event at General Motors’ assembly plant in Flint, Mich. in August 2015.

GM

“We were all working together … everyone was right on it,” Estrada said, adding that she’s proud of the union’s members for being “responsible people” and not creating a panic.

Fiat Chrysler, in an emailed statement, said: “This is a rapidly evolving and unprecedented situation. We are working with the UAW on how to best handle a number of issues. Our first priority is to ensure the health and welfare of our employees.”

A UAW spokesman confirmed Friday morning that it is in discussions with “all employers” about paid leave in relation to the coronavirus. It’s unclear how far along the potential discussions are at Ford. Officials with the company did not immediately respond.

The union could “absolutely” use an agreement reached with one of the automakers for the other two automakers, according to Kristin Dziczek, vice president of industry, labor and economics at the Center for Automotive Research.

“They won’t have one set of workers be different than the others,” she said. “They’re going to try and work out a similar provision for all three companies.”

A provision could be implemented for a certain period of time or potentially amended into the contracts.

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