Electric carmaker Tesla has plans to slash the workforce at its Nevada Gigafactory as much as 75 percent in coming days, according to an email from the company.
The cutbacks come as the company – like countless businesses across the state – is coping with the economic fallout of the COVID-19 virus pandemic.
In an email to Storey County officials, Chris Lister, Tesla’s vice president of operations at the Gigafactory, detailed how the company is coping with the pandemic.
“As mentioned last week, Tesla has started the process to pause any non-essential operations and lines at Gigafactory Nevada,” Lister wrote.
“By next week, as we complete further ramp down of non-essential functions in a safe and orderly manner, we expect our total headcount on-site will decrease by more than 75% from our normal number of employees,” Lister wrote.
The email did not specify the number of employees affected by the reduction. On March 20, Gigafactory partner Panasonic announced it would suspend operations which affected about 3,500 workers.
Lister said the company would allow employees deemed essential to continue to work with precautions. He cited an order by Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak for non-essential business operations to cease statewide through April 16. The order made exceptions for myriad essential services, including supply chain operations.
“Essential on-site functions for supply chain, which have been deemed by Governor Sisolak’s directive and the Federal Government to be critical to the national infrastructure, will remain in operation,” Lister wrote.
He also listed precautions people who remain working will take to reduce the risk of spreading the virus in the building.
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.
Cutbacks at the Gigafactory are notable in large part because Tesla’s decision in 2014 to build in Northern Nevada, with a boost of state subsidies estimated to be worth $1.3 billion over 20 years, represented a major step in diversifying the regional economy as it recovered from the Great Recession.
The Gigafactory produces battery cells and battery packs for use in numerous Tesla products and drive trains for the company’s Model 3 sedan.
Panasonic builds the cells on one side of the factory and delivers them to Tesla for assembly into packs for vehicles and stationary energy storage products.
Packs for vehicles and Model 3 drive trains are shipped to the company’s Fremont, Calif., factory where they’re mated with cars.
On March 19, Tesla announced it would suspend operations at the Fremont factory. The announcement also provided insight into whether the company could endure an extended shutdown.
“Our cash position at the end of Q4 2019 was $6.3B before our recent $2.3B capital raise,” the announcement stated. “We believe this level of liquidity is sufficient to successfully navigate an extended period of uncertainty.”
Benjamin Spillman covers the outdoors and environment in Northern Nevada, from backcountry skiing in the Sierra to the latest from Lake Tahoe’s ecosystem. Support his work by subscribing to RGJ.com right here.
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