PARIS — PSA Group is taking preparatory steps to reopen its European factories, which were closed in response to the coronavirus outbreaks, but unions said the the plan is premature.
The automaker wants to restart production of transmissions at Valenciennes on March 30 and engines at Douvrin on April 3 using volunteers. Unions said it was too soon.
"We consider that restarting work would be premature as long as the peak of the epidemic is not behind us," said Sebastien Leroy, CFTC union member at the Valenciennes plant.
"We don't get it. France is preparing to extend confinement and at the same time PSA is organizing de-confinement," CGT union member Jean-Pierre Mercier said.
France on Friday extended a national lockdown until April 15.
PSA closed its European plants, including Opel's factories in Germany, Spain and Poland, and Vauxhall plants in the UK, along with Peugeot, Citroen and DS facilities, on March 16. It had originally planned to restart output on March 27.
The company on Friday said it is establishing a timetable for a “gradual and safe resumption” of industrial activities, including health and safety precautions for workers.
"We will absolutely not jeopardize our workers' health, so that the industrial restart that is necessary to safeguard the future of the company can be done in optimal conditions," PSA CEO Carlos Tavares said in a statement on Friday.
PSA will take workers' body temperatures, provide face masks and ensure ample spacing at each workplace. It will also keep all doors except fire doors open so as to avoid infection via door handles.
It will also disinfect tools and work surfaces every 60 minutes, workers will have to wait three hours before touching a component that has been handled by another worker and breaks will be lengthened by five minutes for hand-washing.
The company will also double the number of shuttle buses to ensure better spacing between passengers.
PSA will apply these measures not only in its assembly plants but also at sales and administrative sites.
PSA has resumed production at sites in China, where it operates a joint venture with Dongfeng Motor in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
The automaker's dealerships in Europe have been closed but some operations have continued on a limited basis, including the distribution of spare parts to keep medical or food-delivery vehicles on the road.
Reuters contributed to this report