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"They have decided to carry out this action because the situation in the plant 'cannot go on like this,'" local Spanish newspaper Naiz reported. (Photo: Igor Goikolea/Screengrab)

'Cannot Go On Like This': Ordered to Work Despite Coronavirus Outbreak, Spanish Autoworkers Shut Down Mercedes Factory

The employees demanded that "the health of workers be prioritized over production in the face of the coronavirus health crisis."

Jake Johnson

Employees shut down a large Mercedes factory in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain on Monday to protest being required to work despite the coronavirus outbreak which forced the Spanish government to impose a nationwide lockdown over the weekend.

After talks with management over factory conditions and precautions against the spread of COVID-19 broke down, employees stopped working and staged a sit-in at the end of the assembly line, refusing to allow the production process to continue.

The factory's works council, which represents employees, alleged that Mercedes management failed to comply with on-the-job safety requirements such as ensuring that workers have masks, adequate gloves, and other supplies.

The employees demanded that "the health of workers be prioritized over production in the face of the coronavirus health crisis," according to local Spanish outlet Naiz.

"They have decided to carry out this action because the situation in the plant 'cannot go on like this,'" Naiz reported.

Major automakers like Ford, General Motors, and others have instructed non-factory employees in the United States and across Europe to work from home amid the coronavirus outbreak, but factory workers have been required to work.

Jalopnik reported Monday that the Mercedes factory in Vitoria-Gasteiz "had at least one case of coronavirus and 23 workers in quarantine."

"Nissan, Renault, Seat, and Michelin had shut down factories already amid coronavirus," Jalopnik noted, "so the... Mercedes plant was a worrying holdout."


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