Foreign carmakers' U.S. plants relax COVID-19 protocols as Detroit 3 keep masks

FILE PHOTO: Workers in protective face masks listen as U.S. President Donald Trump delivered a speech during his visit to the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant, which is making ventilators and medical supplies, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Ypsilanti, Michigan, U.S., May 21, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

(Reuters) - Foreign automakers are beginning to relax some COVID-19 protocols at their U.S. plants, including the wearing of masks, even as the Detroit-based carmakers and the United Auto Workers union continue to require workers to wear masks.

Toyota Motor Corp, Nissan Motor Co, BMW AG and Geely's Volvo Cars all are beginning to let workers at some U.S. plants shed their masks as COVID-19 vaccinations continue to climb across the country. Some companies are requiring workers to provide proof of vaccination before they can go mask-free.

In the meantime, General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Stellantis NV all said their workers must continue to wear masks. The decision was made jointly with the United Auto Workers (UAW) on June 9, when a joint task force agreed to continue most workplace protocols, except for temperature screening.

UAW spokesperson Brian Rothenberg said the task force is scheduled to meet again next week.

In a statement, GM said, "We will continue to meet as an auto industry group to assess the situation, considering pandemic conditions, vaccination rates and the latest governmental guidance. We're hoping to be able to relax or rescind more COVID protocols over time."

A Ford spokesperson said, "Masks are required inside all Ford buildings at all times."

A Stellantis spokesperson said, "Our policy on masks has not changed. We will have to discuss any changes in protocols with the UAW before we implement."

Toyota will begin to allow workers in July to shed their masks at a number of U.S. plants, but they must provide proof of vaccination.

Nissan no longer requires masks to be worn by workers who have been vaccinated, but proof of vaccination is required.

BMW is allowing vaccinated workers at its Spartanburg, South Carolina, plant to shed their masks, and does not require vaccination proof.

Face masks are not required at Volvo Cars' Charleston, South Carolina, plant.

Hyundai Motor Co said vaccinated employees at its Southern California headquarters do not have to wear masks, and that it is still evaluating the mask policy for workers at its Alabama plant. Hyundai affiliate Kia is also evaluating the mask policy for its Georgia plant, where they are still required.

Honda Motor Co's U.S. plants and Daimler AG's Mercedes factory in Alabama still require masks.

(Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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