The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/Canadian Union of Public Employees , the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions, and Green Jobs Oshawa have issued a statement in response to both federal and Ontario governments’ media release that 3M will make N95 masks in Brockville, Ontario. Production is not slated to begin until Spring 2021. The groups call on the governments to order General Motors, which makes the N95 masks in Warren, Michigan, to also produce them in Oshawa and that the COVID-19 virus be treated as airborne.
“From the start of this pandemic, our governments have failed to adhere to the precautionary principle. As a result, health care workers account for roughly 1 in 5 cases of COVID-19 in Canada,” said Linda Silas, President of the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions. “The lack of sufficient access to N95 respirators can be addressed – highly-skilled workers are ready to produce them domestically at the GM plant in Oshawa. It’s time our governments ensured this production take place, especially as the number of cases continues to rise.”
Michael Hurley, President of OCHU/CUPE says that a key to protecting health care staff from COVID-19 is through the use of the N95 masks and face shields. Surgical masks do not screen out the smaller airborne virus particles effectively and it is the smaller droplets which carry more of the virus than do the larger droplets. Protecting health care staff is vital because they can spread the virus to the people that they care for. We do not have enough N95 masks to meet demand and the domestic manufacturing in Ontario and Quebec is many months away from production. GM makes these masks in Michigan, has the materials, patents and a workforce on layoff. The federal and provincial governments must order GM to make these masks immediately to help avoid needless suffering and loss of life.
“We have been calling on both the Ontario and Federal governments to issue an immediate order for the production of essential medical equipment and supplies in the Oshawa GM complex and related supplier facilities. While the beginning of PPE production by GM in Oshawa is a welcome first step, much more is urgently needed,” said Tiffany Balducci, Durham Region Labour Council President and organizer with Green Jobs Oshawa. “This must include desperately needed N95 masks. There are thousands of laid off GM and supplier workers available. There are millions of square feet available. No more delay can be tolerated.”
The joint statement is available at: www.greenjobsoshawa.ca/jointstatement