March 31 (UPI) -- U.S. carmaker Ford backtracked Tuesday on its plans to reopen multiple key automotive plants in the United States in two weeks -- a move that drew concern from union workers over the ongoing coronavirus emergency.
The automaker said last week it planned to reopen plants in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Kansas City, Mo., on April 14, and a plant in Mexico a week earlier. The United Auto Workers union responded with alarm, saying it had "great concern" about the plan due to the ongoing coronavirus threat.
Tuesday, Ford said it's postponed the plans.
"The health and safety of our workforce, dealers, customers, partners and communities remains our highest priority," said Kumar Galhotra, president of Ford North America. "We are working very closely with union leaders -- especially the [United Auto Workers] -- to develop additional health and safety procedures aimed at helping keep our workforce safe and healthy."
The company didn't specify when it expects the plants to reopen.
The about-face came two days after President Donald Trump dropped a stated goal of restarting the U.S. economy by Easter, and extended national social-distancing guidelines through the end of April.
"Today's decision by Ford is the right decision for our members, their families and our nation," UAW International President Rory Gamble responded Tuesday. He added that the union is working with Ford to make sure "all members are safe, and our communities are protected from this spreading pandemic."
The Ford facilities closed earlier this month under pressure from the UAW due to safety concerns. The automaker, along with U.S. competitors General Motors and Fiat Chrysler, ultimately agreed to "rotating" partial plant shutdowns.
GM has delayed restarting its plants indefinitely, and Fiat Chrysler said last week its plants would remain closed until at least mid-April.