Chrysler: No plans to police rest rooms

Chrysler: No plans to police rest rooms

Carmaker puts to rest questions of whether it will follow rival Ford’s break-monitoring policy.
By Josee Valcourt / The Detroit News

After receiving a half-dozen media calls asking if assembly line workers’ bathroom breaks are monitored, as is the case now at Ford Motor Co.’s Michigan Truck plant in Wayne, the Chrysler Group decided to flush out matters via the Web on Friday.

“We’re not gonna use a stopwatch, turning a natural function into an Olympic sport. That … would just be … well … too anal,” wrote Jason Vines, vice president of communications, on Chrysler’s media-only Web site — http://www.thefirehouse.biz.

As part of an agreement with the United Auto Workers union, Chrysler workers are allotted 46 minutes per shift for bathroom breaks, but without the lavatory police, Vines said.

“It’s no secret that the longer plant workers are on the job, the better it is for productivity,” he wrote. “On the other hand, you have to admit, U.S. auto companies are pretty magnanimous in agreeing to a more leisurely, quality rest room respite.”

In a memo obtained last week by The Detroit News, Ford told Michigan Truck’s 3,500 employees that “excessive bathroom breaks” were hindering work activities and the issue would be closely monitored in the future.

Plant supervisors have begun collecting weekly data on the amount of time workers spend on bathroom breaks and will “respond appropriately,” the memo said.

Michigan Truck workers have pointed out that the bulk of their break time comes early in their shifts, leaving them little time for rest room breaks in the final hours of their workday.

Ford said its 48-minute bathroom break limit is outlined in the company’s labor contract with the UAW covering local plant rules.

With automotive losses mounting across North America, Ford is redoubling efforts to lower costs, boost manufacturing efficiency and accelerate worker productivity.

Ford is not alone in cracking down on work rules.

In recent labor negotiations with the Canadian Auto Workers union, Chrysler wanted to roll back the amount of paid time off workers enjoy.

Vines, former vice president of communications at Ford, said he had no comment about Ford’s decision to crack down on workers’ bathroom time. He said he simply had a hankering to write the blog, titled “Friday Night … Gotta Go Now” in response to media inquiries.

You can reach Josee Valcourt at (313) 222-2300 or jmvalcourt@detnews.com.

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