Why Tesla's Shanghai Workers Will Be Sleeping In The Factory

As China's largest city, Shanghai — which has been on a COVID-19-induced lockdown for the past two weeks — attempts to limp back to normalcy, Tesla is reportedly attempting to restart production at its massive factory – albeit in a rather unusual manner. According to a Bloomberg report, Tesla aims to restart production at its plant by implementing an entirely new "closed-loop system" wherein there will be strict control over the movement of its employees.

This controversial new plan envisages Tesla factory workers not returning to their homes once their daily shift ends. Instead, these workers will have to live within the factory premises until authorities decide when it's safe to travel back home. This essentially means that no one gets in or out of the Tesla factory in China at least until May 1, 2022. This system — according to the report — has the full endorsement of Shanghai's civic authorities and is touted as the best way forward to counter the rising COVID-19 cases while lessening the impact of these restrictions on the economy. 

How the 'closed-loop system' works

According to Bloomberg, an internal Tesla memo says that workers in Tesla's factory premises in China will not be allowed to leave the area until the government begins easing restrictions. These workers will reportedly be given individual sleeping bags and mattresses during their compulsory stay at the factory. According to The Verge, these workers will have access to designated areas for sleeping, showering, eating, and relaxation. Incentives for workers participating in this program include three free meals every day and a daily stipend of 400 yuan ($63).

Although China has vaccinated most of its nearly 1.4-billion population, only employees vaccinated with both doses of China's COVID-19 vaccines will be allowed to enter the factory. Employees will also be subject to mandatory daily nucleic acid tests for the first three days on the factory premises. To make up for the lost time, Tesla reportedly wants these workers to do a 12-hour shift, six days a week, for the next few weeks. The company has already missed its production targets by 40,000 cars since the lockdown began across China back in late March 2022.

Tesla is not the only company that intends to implement this closed-loop system across factories in China. According to current estimates, more than 600 companies — including rival carmaker Volkswagen — have introduced or plan to introduce similar systems.