Workers manufacturing Level 1 face masks at the General Motors plant in Warren, Mich. PHOTO: General Motors Corp.Click image to enlargeGM Canada says it’s preparing portions of its Oshawa, Ont. assembly plant to produce face masks for health care workers on the front lines of Canada's coronavirus battle.

The company said in a press release its plan is based on the GM production model already manufacturing personal protective equipment (PPE) at its facility in Warren, Mich. GM aims to manufacture one million masks per month at cost for the Canadian government and will use about 50 employees supporting two shifts of production.

GM said in its release that the project still requires finalization with both provincial and federal governments and Unifor.

“Unifor members in Oshawa are highly skilled and proud to step up and make whatever our country needs to get through this pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor’s national president. “The fact that Unifor members will help GM produce as many as a million fabric masks a month for Health Canada at cost is an example of what we can do when we work together.”

Unifor said in a press release that it expects the work to commence in “a few weeks.”

"This is a proud day for all the employees of GM Canada to be preparing the Oshawa plant to make millions of face masks at cost to help Canada fight this COVID-19 Emergency," said Scott Bell, president and managing director, GM Canada. "We look forward to partnering with our government and union partners to make this happen quickly."

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) last week called on the government and GM to find a way to produce PPE at the plant, which hasn’t produced vehicles since December 2019, after GM decided to shift gears on the plant’s usage. Before the COVID-19 lockdown, the plant was preparing to make parts for GM vehicles built elsewhere, and was to become home to an advanced vehicle testing track.

“The GM plant in Oshawa can be a made-in-Oshawa, Ont., 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,” said Ontario Federation of Labour President Patty Coates. “The workforce in Oshawa has the skills and is ready to work.”

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