Today, April 24, the Federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry announced that the government signed a letter of intent with General Motors to reopen the Oshawa assembly plant in order to produce a million masks a month for essential workers, something CUPE Ontario has advocated and organized for.

“Our local community is incredibly proud to have been able to organize around ensuring real action from government,” said Tiffany Balducci, 4th Vice-President of CUPE Ontario and one of the lead organizers of Green Jobs Oshawa, which is a coalition including former GM and supplier workers. “We mobilized our community through a petition and public events, and it goes to show that collective action works. This unprecedented victory is now an opportunity to push the Ford Conservatives to also retool private companies to produce what Ontarians need.”

CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 members have joined others in feelings of frustration over the dangerous shortage of necessary medical equipment to treat patients and protect the health of front-line workers, both in the health care and in other sectors. And, while some companies have stepped forward to assist in making ventilators and masks, the province is still experiencing a severe shortage. Opening up the 10 million square foot GM Oshawa complex to produce PPE is a welcomed development, according to CUPE Ontario.

“The Ford Conservatives need to learn from this example and order the private sector to ramp up production of these supplies – or retool factories if necessary,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, highlighting feeder plants and other manufacturing facilities across the province. “They’ve had no problem unilaterally issuing orders that override the freely-negotiated collective agreements of front-line workers. They now need to use their power to order the immediate production of PPE for everyone who needs it.”

“While there’s still more to do, like determining if the laid off GM workers will be recalled to do this work, and making sure Ontario takes similar action, today is a big step forward,” said Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer. “We’re applauding the organizing of our communities and of our health care sector, which took a lead in this campaign, and we’re looking forward to more cooperation and collaboration to find solutions that support Ontarians.”