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Fiat Chrysler sends more Auburn Hills workers home after COVID-19 death

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV is letting more employees at its Auburn Hills headquarters stay home, the automaker said Sunday. The decision followed the death of a worker there after the individual tested positive for COVID-19, according to two sources familiar with the situation who were not authorized to speak publicly.

The company has allowed thousands of white-collar employees globally to work remotely if they are able to do so. It also is shutting down manufacturing plants around the world, including in North America following outcries from the rank-and-file and pressure from labor unions.

Fiat Chrysler is sending more workers home from its Auburn Hill headquarters after an employee there died after testing positive for the coronavirus, sources say.

Now, it has agreed that employees at its technology center — most of whom are salaried workers represented by the United Auto Workers — can stay home, too. The Detroit Free Press first reported the news.

"In combination with increased remote working, we have made the decision to postpone work associated with the test laboratories and pilot plant from Monday, March 23," the company said in a statement. "This postponement will be reviewed on a regular basis and employees will be advised when we intend to resume operations."

When asked about the case at the technology center, the automaker said: "We have cases of COVID-19 in our business enterprise, however out of respect for employee privacy, we will not provide additional comment."

The company has said it has implemented new cleaning programs and social distancing protocols at all of its facilities in response to recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Cindy Estrada, UAW vice president and director of the FCA Department, said the union has worked around the clock with the automaker to ensure their well-being.

"Today's decision by FCA is another important step in following CDC guidelines and helping to flatten the growth of this pandemic and protect the health and safety of our members," Estrada wrote.

Meanwhile, General Motors Co. on Sunday evening stopped production “out of an abundance of caution” at its Arlington, Texas, assembly plant where it builds full-size SUVs. The automaker learned there was a probable coronavirus case at the plant, GM spokesman David Barnas said. Production already was likely going to halt on Monday because of the agreement made between the UAW and Detroit's three automakers to suspend production until March 30.

Fiat Chrysler previously had confirmed cases at its Sterling Heights Assembly Plant, at its Kokomo Transmission Plant in Indiana and potentially in a subcontractor at the construction site of its new assembly plant in Detroit. General Motors Co. has had positive cases at its Flint Truck Plant as well as its technology center in Warren. Ford Motor Co. confirmed a case at its product development campus in Dearborn.

Staff Writer Kalea Hall contributed.

bnoble@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble