Ontario GM plant retooled to make one million masks a month

Apr 24 2020, 12:38 pm

General Motors Canada is preparing portions of its Oshawa plant to produce roughly one million face masks per month to help frontline workers confronting the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to GM, the production model in Oshawa will be based on the plan already in place at the company’s Michigan facility.

To make the one million masks a month, the plant will use around 50 employees supporting two shifts of production.

“The project still requires completion of additional work with our governments and our Unifor partners and we will provide updates as we get ready to begin production,” GM said in a statement on Friday.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) said they are pleased the Oshawa plant is being used for the in-demand personal protective equipment (PPE) that Canadian workers need.

“The GM plant in Oshawa can be a made-in-Oshawa, Ontario, Canada solution to the dire shortages of personal protective equipment that put the lives of workers and all Canadians at risk during the COVID-19 crisis,” Patty Coates, OFL president, said.

“The workforce in Oshawa has the skills and is ready to work. I am pleased that labour’s call for action on this matter has been heard.”

In a press conference last week with Green Jobs Oshawa, Coates called on governments to order GM to produce PPE, as the GM plant shutdown in Oshawa put “thousands out of work.”

The OFL said it has provided recommendations to the government on what workers in Ontario need to ensure safe and healthy workplaces.

“We urge the government of Ontario to follow the lead of the federal government, use their emergency powers and order manufacturers across Ontario produce much-needed PPE,” said Coates.

On April 1, Ontario provided $50 million in funding to the Ontario Together Fund, which brings together businesses from across the industry to create new medical gear like gowns, coveralls, masks, face shields, testing equipment, and ventilators.

And less than two weeks later, Ontario purchased $90 million worth of much-needed medical supplies from local businesses that converted their facilities to produce personal protective equipment.

On April 11, more than 14,000 businesses submitted applications to the portal, to donate and produce any medical supplies needed.