Volkswagen is furloughing around 1,500 assembly workers in Chattanooga, TN. Production is being idled on account of the coronavirus, making VW just one of many brands enacting a temporary shutdown. While the number of employees affected varies between reports, VW-Chattanooga spokeswoman Amanda Plecas said around 2,500 employees will be furloughed on April 11th. The downtime is expected to last roughly four weeks.
“Our primary objective is to protect the financial health of Volkswagen for the benefit of our team as we address the emerging and ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak on our industry," Tom du Plessis, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga, said in a statement. “Right now we have limited visibility on when we will be able to resume production, but we are committed to doing everything we can to preserve jobs. During this time we will be intensely focused on preparing to reopen in a responsible way, ensuring our team has the opportunity to return to work safely and as quickly as practicable."
According to the manufacturer, all furloughed employees will remain VW employees through the duration and will retain their original dates of hire and accrued paid time off. They’ll also be eligible for enhancement of unemployment benefits under the new CARES Act. That’s $600 per week in federal compensation via the $2 trillion stimulus package — plus any state benefits Tennessee has already established.
Most of the affected employees have already been unable to work due to the factory’s March 21st production stall. During that period they were entitled to full pay while a skeleton crew stayed on to sanitize the facility and prep it for when work resumes. Most of that effort was said to involve the installation of “sanitation areas" in high-traffic zones and some light maintenance while equipment is idle. Employees who can work remotely will continue doing so at their normal pay, but they will have to take a mandatory vacation day next week.