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GM to reopen plant to make PPE

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

General Motors Canada is preparing to open the Oshawa plant to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.

“To help Canada meet the urgent need for face masks for health care professionals and for other Canadians, GM Canada is preparing portions of the Oshawa plant to produce face masks based on the GM production model already working in Michigan,” reads a statement from GM.

The company plans to manufacture approximately one million masks per month at cost for the Canadian government. They estimate 50 employees supporting two-shifts of production will be coming back to the plant.

The project still requires the completion of additional work with governments and Unifor and updates will be provided as the company gets set to begin production.

Speaking with The Oshawa Express, Mayor Dan Carter expressed his excitement at the prospect of the plant reopening to make PPE.

“I’m pleased to be able to see that they’re expanding their role here in Oshawa,” he says. “I know that they’ve been playing other roles across Canada to help with PPE, but I’m really pleased to be able to see that this is the first of what I hope is an expanded role not only for the people of the great City of Oshawa, but the plant here in Oshawa.”

While he’s pleased GM, the city, the province, and Unifor have been able to come together to be able to start the process, and expand the role GM will play, he hopes for something more.

“I hope that it’ll also show that a new division could be created by General Motors for providing PPE in our community,” he says. “My own opinion is that I believe we’re going to have to have local manufacturing in regards to PPE as we move forward so we never find ourselves again in a position where we’re unable to get proper protective gear for our community.”

Oshawa MPP Jennifer French, who recently penned a letter to Premier Doug Ford asking him to put pressure on GM to open the plant and make PPE, released a statement.

She says she is glad GM has recognized the opportunity for the plant in Oshawa to help with manufacturing PPE.

“Workers in Oshawa have the heart, the ability, the experience, and the capacity to produce what is desperately needed. Oshawa’s manufacturing has always been a part of Canada’s strength. This may be a short-term project, but manufacturing will always be necessary in the long-term,” she says.

Oshawa Ward 1 City and Regional Councillor John Neal told The Express he is thrilled with the news.

“I’m thrilled about this for the citizens of Oshawa, and the workers and their families,” says Neal. “That we’re able to do something for this COVID-19 pandemic, I think the whole community should be very proud that they can contribute and play an active role in the health and welfare of the citizens of Oshawa, across the country, and worldwide for that matter.”