Unifor, Automakers Form COVID-19 Task Force North of the Border

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
unifor automakers form covid 19 task force north of the border

Unifor, the union representing Detroit Three autoworkers in Canada, joined those companies in announcing a joint task force Tuesday, the same day the province of Ontario declared an emergency amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Like the U.S. task force announced Monday, the Canuck team aims to boost protective measures at the country’s auto plants and warehouses.

Heading up the task force is Unifor President Jerry Dias, Ford of Canada CEO Dean Stoneley, FCA Canada President David Buckingham, and GM Canada President Scott Bell. As you’d expect, the measures closely mirror those seen in the U.S.

“Preventative actions currently under review at the three companies’ Canadian auto facilities include visitor screening, increased cleaning and sanitizing of common areas and touch points, safety protocols for people with potential exposure and those who exhibit flu-like symptoms,” the union and automakers said in a joint statement.

“The task force members today discussed progress with additional safety practices and actions including break and cleaning schedules, health and safety education, health screening, food service and any other areas designed to improve protections for employees.”

Stateside, the United Auto Workers pressured the Detroit Three to idle all plants for two weeks in a bid to curtail the spread of coronavirus. Eventually, the automakers agreed to a series of rotating shutdowns, allowing production to proceed to some degree while freeing up time to disinfect facilities. So far, Unifor hasn’t issued this kind of appeal.

The measures arising from Ontario’s Tuesday emergency declaration includes a laundry list of workplaces to be shuttered, but auto plants do not fall under the type of public gathering place the government wants to see drained of humanity. As well, the partial closure of the U.S.-Canada border (announced in stages this week, including a Wednesday proclamation by President Donald Trump) does not impact commercial vehicles. At this point, like everywhere else, everyone’s just waiting to see how long production can continue.

Speaking to the St. Catharines Standard, Tim McKinnon, GM unit chairman for Unifor Local 199, said, “It depends on the market. It depends on a lot of things. It’s kind of a wait and see and day by day.”

[Image: Fiat Chrysler]

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  • Ect Ect on Mar 18, 2020

    As in the US, creating a "task force" made up of the union President and D3 CEOs reeks of it being a PR exercise, not a meaningful exercise in slowing a pandemic. Hopefully, there is a REAL task force behind the curtain that is made up of people who bring real skills to the task.

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