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Ford and Chrysler to work summer shut-down

Bittersweet news for union families as automakers keep plants open to meet surging demand

It seems that the automotive production world is either feast or famine. Right now it is feast. Like all heavy industries the automotive manufacturing plants schedule shut-downs to do maintenance. Both Ford and also Chrysler have announced that their plants in the US will remain open this summer for all or part of the scheduled shut down. Demand is so strong right now they cannot afford to miss out on the possible savings due to product shortages. Jim Tetreault , vice president of North America Manufacturing for Ford captures the mood well in this statement posted by Ford. “We are working most of our North America plants at maximum capacity and we are adding production shifts in three of our assembly plants this month alone. Requiring more capacity from our plants is a good problem to have and having the flexibility to add a week of production in our plants goes a long way toward solving it.”

Summer and Christmas Shut-Downs
Historically, the shutdowns occurred during the peak summer months and also often at Christmas. Many people who have not grown up in a union household are unaware that the vacations and family plans for many Americans are dictated by these shut-down schedules. By announcing that the shut-downs will be shortened, or put off, families all over America are now faced with the bittersweet prospect of having more work available, but possibly cancelling a vacation or heading off without mom or dad.

Long Days At the Plant
During a plant shutdown the equipment is maintained in ways that cannot be done while it is in use. The shut-down schedule is posted well in advance, sometimes years in advance, and the union works and also the management workers plan accordingly. Some workers are expected to work the shut-down as their role is to keep the equipment up and running. For many of these workers, the shut-down is a time to rack up valuable overtime. In this author’s union home the term “Double-time and a half” meant two things: Dad would be working all day and all night, or Dad would be working a holiday during the shut-down, for example the 4rth of July. Many workers and their families look forward to such opportunities because the extra income is always welcome, but sometimes there is a cost.

The good news is that the strengthening economy is driving demand for cars and trucks. Workers across America will have the opportunity to earn more for their families this summer, but with that comes the reality that a lot of vacation plans are now being reconsidered.