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Elon Musk’s Tesla factory workers sleeping on-site and working 12-hour shifts six days a week

May 10, 2022, 2:26 PM UTC

Workers at the Tesla factory in Shanghai have reportedly been sleeping on-site and working 12-hour shifts with just one day off per week.

With the Chinese government continuing to pursue its zero-COVID strategy, Shanghai has been stuck in lockdown for more than six weeks, leading to new disruptions in production for the U.S. carmaker.

Reuters reported that output at the Gigafactory 3 plant had been halted, but Tesla said it had received no notice the factory had ceased to operate and that some cars were still being made there. 

An internal memo seen by Reuters claims the factory will manufacture fewer than 200 vehicles on Tuesday, a massive drop from the roughly 1,200 units it has been building each day since reopening on April 19.

In late March, Tesla’s Shanghai plant was shut down as the city grappled with a surge in COVID cases caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant of the virus.

But in April, the company was permitted to resume operations under China’s so-called closed-loop system, under which a company’s employees live on-site and are tested regularly, enabling the firm to operate while preventing outbreaks of the coronavirus.

Prior to the lockdown, workers at Tesla’s Shanghai plant worked three shifts covering 24 hours, seven days a week, Bloomberg reported.

But under the closed-loop system, employees are working 12-hour shifts, six days a week, according to Bloomberg.

A spokesperson for Tesla was not available for comment when contacted by Fortune.

The plant’s workforce was reportedly sent a memo before it entered into the closed-loop system, detailing what employees could expect.

The company said at the time that it would provide workers with a mattress and sleeping bag, with employees having to sleep on the floor due to there being no purpose-built dorm.

Other spaces would be designated for entertainment, showering, and dining, the memo said.

Until recently, Tesla was reliant on two factories—its plants in California and Shanghai—for the production of its vehicles.

The electric vehicle maker opened factories in Berlin and Texas in March and April respectively, with the latter serving as the company’s new global headquarters.

Employees living at their place of work in Shanghai isn’t a phenomenon unique to Tesla: As the city’s stringent lockdown measures rage on, authorities have been encouraging companies to adopt the closed-loop system to keep the economy going.

More than 20,000 bankers and traders in the city were reported to have been living at their offices last month, as financial services firms adopted the closed-loop system.

Meanwhile, Shanghai Port, the world’s busiest seaport, is reported to have maintained a 24-hour operation by implementing the policy.

When the city’s lockdown began at the end of March, General Motors’ joint venture with China’s SAIC Motor reportedly told employees at its Shanghai plant to sleep on the factory floor so that production could continue.

And workers who were locked in at Volkswagen’s Shanghai plant were reportedly treated to movie nights when they moved into the factory.   

Spokespeople for GM and Volkswagen were not available for comment.

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