KEARNEY — After 45 days of halting production due to COVID-19, all 450 employees at the Eaton Corp. valve and gear manufacturing plant in Kearney are back working.
However, based on customer demand, the plant is not operating at full production.
“The status of our Kearney plant has been very fluid,” said Cara Klaer, an Eaton spokesperson. “As a result of reduced customer demand, the plant has experienced temporary shutdowns and reduced production schedules.”
The temporary closing of the Kearney plant on March 20 suspending operations as three major automakers — Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler — announced they would stop production for about two weeks in face of the virus outbreak.
On March 30, the plant partially reopened with an estimated 350 employees to support customer demand.
Klaer, senior manager of communications for Eaton Corp.’s Vehicle Division, declined to say if Eaton employees were paid during the layoff. Instead, she said as in similar situations of reduced production schedules due to decreased customer demand, the Kearney workforce was on a temporary layoff. Employees were encouraged to pursue federal and state unemployment compensation during the temporary layoff.
Eaton also provided continued benefits to support employees through the layoff.
To ensure employees safety Klaer said the plant has taken several safety measures including practicing social distancing, restricting visitors, increasing cleaning and disinfecting protocols, staggering shifts and requiring anyone entering the facilities to self-monitor their health and evaluate their COVID-19 risk.
Before entering the Kearney plant, and on a daily basis, Klaer said all team members are required to participate in temperature screens. Individuals who do not meet screening criteria are not allowed into the facility.
All employees have been provided with face covers that must be worn at all times.
If an Eaton employee tests positive for the virus, Klaer said the plant will follow an aggressive response plan that includes mandatory quarantines, communicate with everyone who has been exposed, disinfect work stations and common areas, and shut down the facility, if necessary.