Honda asks office workers to build cars as COVID-19 takes toll

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Honda confirmed reports that it has sent some of its office workers to the assembly line in its Marysville, Ohio, factory to fill in for employees who are quarantined after testing positive for COVID-19. The company explained part of the reason it’s short-staffed is because it’s handling the pandemic with an abundance of caution.

“Due to strong customer demand for our products, and the need to carefully manage production during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing some temporary staffing issue that require support from associates who do not typically work in production. We have implemented such temporary measures in the past, and we are working diligently to attract and hire associates to support our production needs,” a company spokesperson told Autoblog.

WOSU reported the Japanese company asked employees who normally work in accounting, purchasing, or research and development to work on the assembly line. Of course, building a car is an extremely complicated process that consists of hundreds of tasks. We don’t know if accountants are merely double-checking that there are Honda emblems on both ends of a Civic, or assembling a VTEC cylinder head; odds are it’s the former. 

In an internal email obtained by WOSU, plant manager Mark Willoughby explained recruiting additional blue-collar workers has been difficult, in part because of the extra $600 federal unemployment benefit made available earlier in 2020. He noted the weekly benefit is scheduled to expire in July, but it might be extended. He nonetheless expects the facility will return to what he referred to as “proper staffing levels” by the end of August.

In his email, Willoughby also pointed out hospitals delayed non-urgent surgeries from March to May 2020 to let their personnel focus on COVID-19 patients. Many of these procedures were rescheduled in July, so an unusually large number of Americans are either preparing for an operation or recovering from it. Finally, he pointed out Marysville has sent some of its employees to support local suppliers who are also struggling with staffing issues.

“The health and safety of our associates is our highest priority, and, acting out of an abundance of caution when a member of our team tests positive or is suspected for COVID-19, we use contract tracing to determine those who may have been exposed to the affected team member — sometimes resulting in the need for additional associates to quarantine. These precautions, combined with strong demand for our products, has created the need to ask some support associates to work temporarily in the production area,” the spokesperson concluded.

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Saurabh Shukla

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