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Auto manufacturers scramble to find workers

October 8, 2020   by Reuters

Millions of U.S. workers have lost their jobs to the pandemic, but in the auto industry, suppliers are scrambling to find enough people to staff production lines, resorting to such approaches as rewards for good attendance and at-work teachers to lure job seekers.

At auto parts maker Mobex Global, Chief Executive Joe Perkins said he is boosting pay and offering bonuses to help fill 80 job openings. His engineering and machining company is running more overtime to meet rising demand.

“It is the most critical issue in our company,” said Perkins, whose firm has 12 U.S. plants and counts General Motors Co. and Ford Motor Co. among its customers.

“We’re using almost 10 staffing companies across the plants,” he told Reuters. “We’re using multiple jobs boards, ZipRecruiter, LinkedIn, Monster, local news stations, down to lawn signs, local papers, billboards, public transportation, church bulletins, you name it.”


The U.S. auto industry usually is the first in and the last out of an economic slump. The coronavirus crisis is different. Demand for new vehicles has rebounded. But fears of catching COVID-19 and problems caring for school-age children are keeping many workers at home, compelling employers to raise pay despite the high national jobless rate, industry executives said.

Many suppliers are dealing with absenteeism rates of 10-15 per cent, said Brian Collie, head of Boston Consulting Group’s global auto practice. That has led the United Auto Workers to give the Detroit automakers more latitude on using temporary workers to cover for absent full-time employees, union President Rory Gamble told Reuters.

John Dunn, Americas CEO for Clean Energy Systems, a Plastic Omnium unit that makes fuel and emissions-reduction systems, said his company has raffled gifts to employees in reward for good attendance.

“We’d like to ship more,” said Andreas Weller, CEO of aluminum parts maker Aludyne, whose company is struggling to fill 200 open jobs, mostly in western Michigan and Georgia. “We haven’t shut anybody down yet, but we’d like to be in a better position in terms of inventory.”

Like all companies in the auto sector, suppliers’ profits were hurt during the shutdown and now they are seeing more hits as they are forced to raise pay to attract workers and run more overtime to meet demand.


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