Tesla threatening to fire employees if they don’t return to work at California factory, say workers

Some Tesla workers say they have heard of COVID-19 cases among some at the Fremont factory, but claim that the company is being tight-lipped about the numbers.

The Associated Press July 03, 2020 11:29:07 IST
Tesla threatening to fire employees if they don’t return to work at California factory, say workers

Detroit: Some Tesla workers and labor activists said the company was threatening to fire employees who haven't returned to the California factory since it reopened because they're afraid of catching the coronavirus.

The group wants the practice to stop, and it also wants state and county officials to do a better job making sure proper safety procedures are followed at the factory in Fremont, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"There are people we are paying to keep us safe, and they're just turning the other cheek," said Tesla worker Carlos Gabriel, who is among the organizers of a rally scheduled for Thursday at the Alameda County Public Health Department in Oakland. "They should be holding (Tesla CEO) Elon Musk accountable," he said.

A Tesla spokesman wouldn't immediately comment on Wednesday, but company officials said at a public hearing on tax incentives in Texas last week that claims of Fremont workers being fired are untrue. Tesla has released plans to maintain worker safety including temperature checks, the wearing of gloves and masks, installing barriers between workers and maintaining social distancing. In early May, Musk told workers that they didn't have to return to the plant if they weren’t comfortable with it.

A message was left Wednesday seeking comment from the health department.

Problems at the factory are among several that have flared up in the auto industry in recent weeks. Assembly lines at two Fiat Chrysler plants in the Detroit area were briefly shut down this week due to fears over viral spread, and local union officials want General Motors to close and clean an SUV factory in Arlington, Texas.

Gabriel and another Tesla worker say they have heard of COVID-19 cases among workers at the Fremont factory, but don’t know numbers because the company wouldn't tell them. They want the health department to release numbers and to trace whoever came in contact with sick workers rather than letting Tesla do it.

Branton Phillips, a towmotor operator who has returned to work, said many workers don't wear masks covering their nose and mouth in the plant, and they remove them and don't keep proper social distance when they go outside. He's worried about getting sick and spreading it to his longtime girlfriend who is vulnerable to the virus, he said.

"I had to go back. I need the (medical) insurance," Phillips said, adding that Tesla is trying to enforce mask requirements inside the factory. He said employees have been threatened with being fired, but then told they won't be fired, creating confusion.

Musk reopened the Fremont plant on 11 May in defiance of Alameda County orders to stay closed. The county health department had deemed the factory a nonessential business that can't fully open under virus restrictions, but TTElsesla contended it was essential under federal guidelines.

The next day, however, the health department announced that the plant could return to manufacturing as long as it delivers on worker safety precautions that it agreed to.

Earlier this week, the United Auto Workers union sent teams to the two Fiat Chrysler plants and the Texas factory to investigate employee fears about other workers being infected, spokesman Brian Rothenberg said. He didn’t know how many coronavirus cases there were at each of the plants.

GM says its safety protocols in Arlington are working and it has not changed production plans. It says in a statement that some workers have tested positive at the plant because there is no vaccine or cure.

Updated Date:

Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.

also read

US Open 2020: No set guidelines for calling off Grand Slam by USTA if COVID-19 outbreak
Sports

US Open 2020: No set guidelines for calling off Grand Slam by USTA if COVID-19 outbreak

USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said his group and its representatives are in touch with the WTA, ATP, the French tennis federation and government officials in Italy and France about quarantine concerns.

Roland Garros 2020: 'Slim to none' Nick Kyrgios unlikely to feature at Parisian Grand Slam
Sports

Roland Garros 2020: 'Slim to none' Nick Kyrgios unlikely to feature at Parisian Grand Slam

Kyrgios said: "I'm going to use this (time) to stay home, train, be with my family, be with my friends and I'm just going to act responsibly, and wait till I think there's better circumstances to play."

NBA: League releases COVID-19 testing results, no players confirmed positive in bubble
Sports

NBA: League releases COVID-19 testing results, no players confirmed positive in bubble

Of the 343 NBA players tested since results were last announced 29 July, none has been confirmed positive.