No unemployment compensation, no salary and, in the worst case, also jobless. That is the situation that some employees of the production line of the Tesla factory in Fremont, California have experienced, since its abrupt reopening.
The return to the production plant a jug of cold water for some employees. In the midst of a health crisis that continues to wreak havoc in the United States, and with Alameda County among the ten with the most positive cases of coronavirus recorded in California, there are many who disagree with having to expose themselves to direct contact with other people.
A reality that made sense when Elon Musk, CEO of the firm, sent an email to his staff last Monday. In this, to which Hypertextual had access, he communicated to the employees of the Fremont factory his return to it. “We are happy to have you back at work,” said the text, warning that a manager would contact them for the next 24 hours to communicate the details of your first shift.
Choosing not to return to work transforms temporary employee leave into unpaid
A communication that warned workers that they could choose not to return to their position “if they were not comfortable” with the situation, which would transform your temporary permit into an unpaid leave.
But the return to normal Tesla operations also means that many of them they will also stop receiving their unemployment benefits, as you guessed last Tuesday. This outlet has been able to speak to several Tesla employees who reveal the current tension within the company.
“I could be fired”
A current Tesla employee, who has not yet completed his second year in the company, confirms the above to Hypertextual. After speaking on the phone with his manager, he assures that he will stay at home “by his own choice”. At the same time, he regrets that “they will take away my unemployment benefits and they will not pay me in any way.” The decision will be firm from this week, on the first day that you should go to the factory.
“He could be fired for choosing not to go to work.” The company’s official statement did not mention this possibility.
However, the fact of remaining absent for fear of the coronavirus pandemic could be further punished, despite official stance to the contrary. “[Mi gerente] He has also indicated that I am at risk of being fired as a result of my choice, “says the employee, who prefers not to reveal his name. A consequence that makes it difficult for the staff to make a decision, undecided at this time. Several of the workers are running out the last few hours to convey their final position to the person in charge, also, perhaps, to see if the situation turns around again.
The person in charge of this work group expresses to the employee that it is a real possibility that is currently on the table.
In a similar position is another production assistant in the same Tesla plant in Fremont, who has already started his unpaid leave, also by his own choice. “I was asked to return but I rejected it due to my concern for my health,” he says, reporting that, similarly, he has received a call from his supervisor reinforcing the tone of the aforementioned email, and urging employees to resume their positions. of work.
“I do not see a near scenario in which I feel safe to return to a factory full of 10-15 thousand employees,” he explains. “Even less after learning about Tesla’s work and neglect of workers’ rights and health.” At the same time, he asserts that “If Tesla was making respirators, it would have gone back to work yesterday.”. It also supports the different experts who have expressed that “the opening of this State is premature and will cause even more damage than before.”
At the time of writing this article, California is the fifth North American State in volume of positive cases by coronavirus.
Fear in the factory
The firm complex commanded by Elon Musk he began to resume part of his usual activity last Monday. They had been working for only two months for only minimal jobs as a result of orders from the California state to contain the coronavirus pandemic. He did this, however, without permission from Alameda County, bypassing the restrictions imposed and acting on his own.
This was stated by himself Musk, very critical in recent weeks with the situation derived from the coronavirus. He then expressed that he would be with the employees and that “if someone had to be arrested” it would be only him. The spread of the disease forced at the beginning of the year to also paralyze its factory in Shanghai, key for the distribution of the brand’s vehicles on Asian soil.
Although there are employees who have decided not to return to work, with the consequences that this may have, others have. Either out of conviction or out of necessity, the Tesla factory parking lot in Fremont is once again filled with workers’ cars.
One of those who has decided to go, and who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, reveals to Hypertextual in a conversation that he is “scared” by the situation. If he has resumed his activity, he confesses, it is only for fear of being fired. After almost four years in the factory, what worries him most is the impossibility to keep the distances between some employees and others in the production area.
Yes, there are certain security measures, such as the distribution of masks, facial protectors or hand sanitizer. They also control the temperature at the entrance to the factory or in organized transport to and from the factory. But respecting the space once inside and according to which areas, nevertheless, seems completely impossible today.
In another email sent last Tuesday, Musk congratulated all those who had come to his job. “It is great to see the factory come back to life and that you are making it possible!” wrote the executive. “An honest day of work spent building products or providing services to others is extremely honorable. I have far greater respect for someone who prides themselves on doing a good job, whatever their profession, than for someone wealthy or famous who doesn’t nothing useful. “
Fremont, the focus of attention
But despite the optimism of the CEO, the situation could not be more delicate. He tugs on the Alameda County It remains unresolved, although there may be a principle of agreement on the table. A statement issued Tuesday by the local Health Department states that Tesla could begin minimum work services at the factory and move to mass production soon. However, the manufacturer has already started doing it on its own, as the health body itself recognized the day before.
Fremont citizens have organized a demonstration at the gates of the Tesla factory for next May 16
Likewise, Gavin newsom, Governor of California and prone to opening the Tesla plant, was surprised to be informed that production had already resumed.
Meanwhile, at least a private clinic located in the neighboring municipality of San José has offered to perform coronavirus tests free of charge to factory employees. Fremont residents, along with health personnel, have called a demonstration outside the factory. It will be next May 16 to request its closure until sanitary conditions allow it.