Former Tesla workers have provided worrying accounts of the current state of the company’s production plant in Buffalo, New York. One employee claims production was “fabricated for show” during a recent media tour of the plant.
News 4 Buffalo reports that former Tesla workers are beginning to provide accounts of their time at the company’s Buffalo, New York production facility where they say management showed a “lack of urgency” to fix the many issues at the facility. Former employees at the Gigafactory II facility told WIVB that equipment at the facility regularly broke down resulting in production goals never being met and some employees spending more time on their cell phones than working.
One employee reportedly raised issues about this with management and was told that Tesla was trying to “build the plane as we’re trying to fly it,” and to expect many hiccups at a start-up company. Dale Witherell, one of the 50 employees laid off by Tesla recently, commented on the company’s practices saying: “I don’t know how Gigafactory II has been going on this long without any checks and balances or any government officials or politicians actually monitoring or watching and holding them to some standards.”
The Gigafactory II in was constructed and kitted out with $750 million in taxpayer funds as part of an initiative by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. According to the rules of the initiative, if Tesla doesn’t employ 1,460 workers at the facility by April 2020 the company could face $41.2 million in state penalties. Currently, the plant employs 800 workers divided between Tesla and Panasonic who both operate out of the facility. But some former workers have disputed Tesla’s employment figures.
Tesla responded to some claims by former employees stating: “As we’ve said, Solar Roof is a product that needs to last decades, and therefore has a long development cycle, and we’ve been thoughtful and deliberate as we gradually ramped production,” a spokesperson said. “We understand that job cuts like those we announced two weeks ago are never easy, and we are grateful to everyone who departed for their contributions to Tesla’s mission.”
Tesla reported a 21 percent decrease in installed solar systems for the fourth quarter which appeared to add to the lack of production at the facility. Dale Witherell and another worker, Dennis Scott, saw the slow production rate at the factory firsthand: “We’re paid for 12 hours to work, not watch movies,” Scott said. Witherell added: “During my employment there, nothing improved during the entire employment as far as production.”
Witherell continued to say: “Some weeks we produced enough solar modules for zero homes and probably the best I saw was maybe four homes in a week, so that is alarmingly scary to obviously be a part of a company who doesn’t have any sense of urgency to tackle these issues and get them working correctly.” Scott himself questioned the decision to invest $750 million into the firm saying: “That $750 million could have been spread out a lot better to a lot of other companies to stay here in Buffalo than sinking it into one big company.”
In November, Tesla provided members of the media with a tour of the Buffalo facility which was extremely controlled, with no cameras allowed and employees being hand picked by Tesla to speak to reporters. “It was all fabricated for show,” Witherell said. “There was no actual production that day so some of the teams in their specific area were instructed to make sure they looked busy and they actually were working on the same module over and over again.”
It was around this time that Tesla and state officials claimed that 800 people were employed at the plant, 400 by Tesla and 400 by Panasonic, but some workers have disputed these figures. “If you took all of our shifts, there are about 50 people, maybe 60 people at best per shift, there are four shifts,” Scott said. “You do the math. Are you going to tell me there are 200 people up in the front office?”
Read the full report by WIVB.com here.