New Schedules Push Graveyard Shift Off The Clock | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

New Schedules Push Graveyard Shift Off The Clock

As car companies struggle to meet growing demand, the third shift is making a comeback. But many factories running on three shifts are doing it differently from in the past. And that new "three crew" shift pattern could make what's normally a hard job even harder.

At Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne, employees work 10-hour shifts four days a week. The so-called A crew gets days, while the B crew gets afternoons. But the C crew shift rotates its start time every week. On Fridays and Saturdays, workers start at 6:00 a.m. On Mondays and Tuesdays, they start at 4:30 p.m.

The new work pattern encourages companies to add jobs, according to the United Auto Workers. Factories can run six days a week instead of five, so they produce more cars.

More Jobs And More 'Jet Lag'?

Both Ford and Chrysler plan to add third shifts in the future at U.S. plants. Chrysler spokeswoman Jodi Tinson admits working 10 hours is a long day. But workers also get three days a week off, and she says it's better than the alternative, which can be lots of required overtime.

"They're not working these crazy long hours and lots of overtime that has really taken a toll on their personal health [and] their relationships with their family," Tinson says.

Still, the UAW contract lets the company tack an extra hour and a half of overtime to the end of the 10-hour shifts if necessary.

And there's a hidden cost for the C crew, according to Ronald Chervin, head of the University of Michigan Sleep Disorder Center. Rotating working hours can feel like having a bad case of jet lag, one that does not go away.

"We're very well-constructed to have a robust circadian rhythm," Chervin explains. "So the brain expects you to be awake certain parts of a 24-hour cycle and expects you to be asleep [during others]."

'It Caused Us Issues'

General Motors has tried this scheduling pattern, but Larry Zahner, the company's manufacturing manager, says GM did not like waiting until Sunday to do preventive maintenance and did not like the new schedule's effect on workers.

"[The third shift] really doesn't work for people in the U.S. It just caused us issues," Zahner says.

In Trenton, Mich., the Chrysler engineer plant rotated all three crews between days and evenings for two years in a row. But it proved to be disastrous, says Gabe Solano, president of UAW Local 372, which represents workers at the Trenton plant.

"During that time, we had an enormous uptick [of employees out on medical leave and family medical leave]," Zahner explains. "People were missing work and/or coming in extremely late because they couldn't catch up on their sleep."

Now, the Chrysler factory is experimenting with an even more complicated pattern — six crews with everyone working days or afternoons. Solano says it appears to be working despite some hiccups.

Looking On The Bright Side

But the rotating C crew shift will remain a fixture at Chrysler and Ford, including at Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne.

Christopher Hanson, a veteran employee at Michigan Assembly who also goes by the nickname "Happy," chose to join the third shift, unlike many of his coworkers. In this tough economy, he's looking on the bright side.

"There are far worse things to be out doing than working a nondesirable shift here at Ford Motor Co.," Hanson says.

Ford will soon add a third rotating shift in Louisville, Ky., and Chrysler will add the shifts at its plants in Kokomo, Ind. That's hundreds more people on C crew, losing sleep but earning a living and reducing the country's stubbornly high unemployment rate.

Copyright 2012 Michigan Radio. To see more, visit http://michiganradio.org/.

NPR

A Poet Parses The Legacy Of War In 'My Life As A Foreign Country'

When award-winning poet Brian Turner served in the Army, he was following a long family tradition. His new memoir traces that history — and imagines the perspectives of the people shooting back.
NPR

Syrup Induces Pumpkin-Spiced Fever Dreams

Hugh Merwin, an editor at Grub Street, bought a 63-ounce jug of pumpkin spice syrup and put it in just about everything he ate for four days. As he tells NPR's Scott Simon, it did not go well.
NPR

Man Caught At White House Is An Army Veteran

Omar J. Gonzales, the 42-year-old man who the Secret Service says ran onto the White House grounds and entered a door Friday night, is an Army veteran who served in Iraq.
NPR

Drivers, Passengers Say Uber App Doesn't Always Yield Best Routes

People love Uber, but they often complain the Uber app's built-in navigation doesn't give its drivers the best directions. The company says the app helps drivers and passengers travel efficiently.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.