On March 19th, Tesla announced it would significantly scale back operations at its Fremont, Calif. factory following a battle between it and the county as to whether or not building luxury cars could be constituted as essential. A week later, the same thing is playing out with the company’s northern Nevada Gigafactory, shared with Panasonic. On-site staff will be reduced by 75 percent, though Tesla did not indicate how many people would be affected by the reduction.
Nevada Gov. Sisolak issued an order for non-essential business operations to cease statewide last week, which has left the state’s two largest traditionally-tourist-heavy cities, Reno and Las Vegas, nearly ghost towns. Panasonic notified Nevada that it would be shuttering its half of the plant where it builds 18650 and 2170 battery cells on March 20th, displacing 3500 workers. Tesla has continued turning those battery cells into packs for cars and Powerwalls, and constructing Model 3 drivetrains in its half of the factory since.
In an email obtained by the Reno Gazette Journal, Chris Lister, Tesla Gigafactory VP of Operations notified the county of the ramp down. The remaining 25 percent of staff will stay on site for essential services, including supply chain operations and security. Precautions have been put into place for those remaining on site to reduce the risk of spreading the covid-19 virus.
The list included:
- Reduced number of entrances with temperature checks at each entrance.
- Requiring hand sanitizer when entering building.
- Implementing social distancing, such as six feet of separation between people and limiting cafeteria seating to one chair per table.
- Disinfecting work stations twice per shift.
- Conducting virtual onboarding going forward.
The Gigafactory has been plagued by myriad worker safety issues since it began operating in 2016, and strained the local infrastructure and housing market. Many workers in the factory are already living out of RVs parked on city streets or Walmart parking lots, while others still are staying in student housing on the University of Nevada, Reno campus.
This scale-down will hopefully influence more Nevadans to shelter in place, no matter where their place is. Many small-to-medium sized businesses look to have defied the Governor’s order and particularly the northern part of the state (where I live) seems to largely be going about business as usual. Hopefully this major employer in the area closing most of its employees out will help people understand that this is not something to take lightly.
No word yet as to whether Tesla will allow its employees to continue their work at home.