As the COVID-19 public health crisis deepens, Volkswagen Chattanooga on Thursday announced temporary emergency furloughs for its production and maintenance workforce effective Saturday. These employees have been unable to work following the factory’s production suspension, which began March 21 to help prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
There will be approximately 2,500 Volkswagen employees and contractors furloughed.
“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,” said Tom du Plessis, president and CEO of Volkswagen Chattanooga.
“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.”
Volkswagen is taking steps to limit the furlough’s impact on employees, which is expected to last no more than four weeks, it was stated. During this time, the Company will continue to provide health care benefits and coverage of premiums, paying both employer and employee contributions. Employees will still receive their first quarter bonuses as well as their March monthly bonuses.
With the recent enhancement of unemployment benefits under the CARES Act, these employees are now eligible to receive an additional $600 per week in federal compensation through the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment benefits.
All furloughed employees will remain Volkswagen employees through the duration of the furlough period. Upon return, employees will retain their original dates of hire and accrued paid time off.
Non-furloughed employees will continue working from home and will use one mandatory vacation day next week. All employees have been asked to self-quarantine and maintain social distancing as directed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those enrolled in Volkswagen’s apprenticeship and high school programs will have continued access to education. All instructor-led technical training are on hold until further notice.
The factory suspended production last month prior to stay-at-home mandates from state and local government out of an abundance of caution. Volkswagen employees and production contractors received full pay and benefits during this time , for a total of three additional weeks of compensation.