On Wednesday, Ford Motor Co. told employees that it would delay plans for on-site work due to coronavirus concerns relating to the delta variant. Non-site-dependent staff are being told they stay home for the rest of 2021, while line workers will still be required to come in so long as there’s a job to be done — creating a dichotomy between white and blue-collar workers.
While Ford has encouraged some teams to come back to the office for various projects, it has repeatedly delayed its return-to-work timeline. Workers now being told to stay home until 2022 were previously informed they’d be coming back to the office in October. Before that, everyone thought it would be business as usual by the summer. Now the company is adopting a policy that has most people staying home even after 2022 as often as possible while it considers mandating vaccines.
Normally, this is something you’d expect unions to pipe up about and some are. Line workers are effectively being forced to come in and may be subjected to vaccinations in order to keep their jobs while office staff can remain home indefinitely. But the UAW has been on board with whatever COVID restrictions automakers wanted to impose since day one. It even cosigned most of the early proposals as part of the joint automotive task force designed to help manage the pandemic response.
While your author earnestly believes many of the people championing these types of restrictions are doing so with good indentions, the fact remains that it’s much more affordable for a company not to pay for office space it no longer needs. Ford has already said it’s been redesigning its facilities accommodate fewer people on-site and, according to Automotive News, the brunt of those efforts is going toward shrinking offices and giving employees more shared workspaces — which is going to save them a bundle.
“The nature of the work or project will guide arrangements that employees and their people leaders decide on in collaboration,” Ford said in a statement. “For example, a team may decide to come into the office two times per week for a project that needs face-to-face collaboration, while working remote the other days, or there may be a sprint where employees are needed on-site for one full week, then work from home the rest of the month. Coming on-site will be for the purpose of collaborative work.”
The company on Wednesday also informed workers of a new arrangement where it will allow non-site-dependent employees to work for up to 30 days per year from an alternate location within their country of employment. That would allow employees with a vacation home or who were visiting family out-of-state to continue working with no expectation to be on-site at a Ford facility.
We’re inclined to think that vaccine mandates are next and Ford has already confirmed it’s been considering them. But it also stated that it wants to assess how employees might respond and what the legalities of such a mandate would be in various countries. There have also been monumental levels of pushback relating to new COVID restrictions that marginalize the unvaccinated or those objecting to compulsory vaccine IDs. Europe has seen months of protests after various nations instituted vaccine passports and there’s a coalition of truckers in Australia that now refuse to deliver goods while lockdowns continue. There has likewise been opposition forming in the United States, as various cities and corporations introduce pandemic protocols that are even more restrictive than what we originally endured.
Considering that Blue Oval isn’t even sure how legal it is to foist vaccines on staff at the global level and everyone is starting to seem pretty mad about the prospect, it’s probably wise to tread lightly here. Bank of America was already being boycotted for handing over customer data to the FBI and people are now doubling down after it said it would be requiring all employees get vaccinated unless they wanted to be fired — though it’s hardly alone. Amtrak, AT&T, BlackRock, Capital One, Cardinal Health, Cisco Systems, CNN, Delta Airlines, Facebook, Frontier Airlines, Google, Lyft, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, Uber, Walt Disney, Washington Post, and many other companies have introduced similarly stringent vaccine ID requirements within the last month.
[Image: Ford Motor Co.]
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