ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Hundreds of local General Motors employees went back to work Monday as the company reopened the Rochester plant on Lexington Avenue under strict new safety protocols due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It’s been nearly nine weeks since the plant closed, but some 800 employees went back to work Monday. Union Representative Dave Maloney said emotions about the new protocols for safety were varied.
“It”s a mixed bagged,” UAW Local 1097 President Maloney said. “Some people are fearful to come back in, they’re not sure if these safety protocols are really going to be 100% effective.
“Some folks really wanted to come back to work and they were just tired of being out.”
Union representatives worked with General Motors leaders to create a safety plan for workers upon returning.
“We had to ensure the safety aspect was right before anyone came back in, and we did.”
The plant, which makes engine parts for SUVs and cars, is taking steps like temperature screenings for every employee entering the plant, sanitizing of work stations through the day and providing face and eye coverings for all workers.
“When they walk through the door, it looks different out there. It’s not the same plant that they left,” said Neal Evans, GM Rochester Operations Plant Director. “Some critical involvement that they have to do to make sure that they get prepared to go to work, so it’s different for them. And you’re right, that’s what we’re doing, is trying to a make sure that they’re comfortable coming into the plant and working.”
Inside the plant employees wearing face coverings and enforcing physical distancing.
Evans says the plant is now running with about 70% of its workforce and getting these workers back now was crucial to reviving the automotive industry.
“We’re a critical supplier to them so we have to get off to a good start here and make sure we have good quality parts coming out.”
Evans hopes to be back to full operations in the upcoming weeks, if the plant and the reopening plan stays on schedule