Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday is expected to make announcement regarding the reopening of the state’s factories, removing one of the last major obstacles to North American automakers bringing thousands of laid-off workers back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic, two people familiar with the matter said.
Companies will be told they can start work next week at their plants, including training their employees for the restart, the sources said.
This week, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles had stated they were planning to restart vehicle production in North America on May 18, but suppliers would need time to prepare before that date.
Whitmer is set to provide an update of the state’s handling of the virus at 3 p.m. EDT.
The governor previously increased the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order through May 15, but lifted restrictions for some businesses except manufacturing. Neighboring Ohio allowed manufacturing to restart on Monday, and Whitmer had faced increasing calls to follow suit.
Michigan’s shutdown had stymied attempts made the automakers to resume vehicle assembly anywhere in the United States, because many critical parts providers are based in the state.
Automakers and their suppliers already have started gearing up for a possible resumption of work at their U.S. plants, but required the official permission from Whitmer.
On Wednesday, General Motors said it was aiming to resume its North American plants on May 18, the day after FCA provided the same target. Ford Motor has not discussed what date it is targeting.
The automakers’ plans were tacitly approved on Tuesday by the United Auto Workers (UAW) union, which represents the Detroit automakers’ hourly U.S. plant workers. The union had earlier said that early May was “too soon and too risky” to resume manufacturing.
As of Wednesday, Michigan had over 45,000 cases of coronavirus and 4,250 deaths, but state officials have said the rate of infection has reduced. Overall, coronavirus has infected more than 1,273,704 people in the US and killed 75,651.