Mexican automakers want 'essential' industry designation

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican car makers are lobbying the government to be designated an essential industry so they can keep part of their nearly one million workers on the job, as measures to the fight coronavirus keep plants idle, the country’s top auto lobby said on Tuesday.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 38,800 people globally, has forced the shutdown of auto plants around the world as governments ask people to stay home.

“We are asking the Economy and Health Ministries to consider us an essential industry and this will allow us to maintain some operations,” Fausto Cuevas, who heads the Mexican Automotive Industry Association (AMIA), told Reuters.

Mexico declared a health emergency on Monday and issued stricter rules aimed at containing contagion after the number of cases surged to nearly 1,100 and the death toll rose.

The new measures include a reduction of the number of people who can gather to 50 and an extension of a previously announced suspension of non-essential activities.

The government has designated essential activities as those connected to health care and the pharmaceutical sector, public security, food production and distribution, and trucking among others. Car making is not included in the list.

Cuevas said being included on the list was needed “in order for us to keep people in jobs” that he said benefited millions of Mexicans.

Despite AMIA’s repeated emails and messages to the Economy and Health Ministries to address the issue, they have not yet received a response, said Cuevas.

Designating more sectors as “essential” would undermine the social distancing and other measures put in place to stem the spread of the disease, a government source said.

AMIA says the automotive industry contributes 3.8% of gross domestic product and generates about 980,000 direct jobs.

Reporting by Anthony Esposito and Sharay Angulo; Editing by Stephen Coates