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Green Jobs Oshawa advocates reopening GM plant to produce medical supplies during pandemic

Click to play video 'Group advocates reopening GM plant in Oshawa for PPE' Group advocates reopening GM plant in Oshawa for PPE
A joint effort is underway in an attempt to lobby the federal government into using Oshawa's GM plant to produce medical supplies during the pandemic. Brittany Rosen has more. – Apr 9, 2020

A joint effort is underway in an attempt to lobby the federal government to use Oshawa’s General Motors plant during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several employees who were laid off when the company shut down its assembly line in Oshawa last year are a part of Green Jobs Oshawa, a grassroots group now advocating to get the facility up and running again as the pandemic continues.

“There’s an empty plant in Oshawa with thousands of available workers,” said Rebecca Keetch, a former GM employee who was laid off when assembly operations came to a halt.

Keetch says workers would be able to produce ventilators, masks, personal protective equipment and anything else the facility could handle.

READ MORE: Toyota extends North American shutdown into May due to coronavirus pandemic

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“There’s no reason for any workers right now to have to be heroes. They should be able to do their jobs and be safe,” Keetch said.

“They should have the proper equipment they need, whether it’s a retail worker or a health-care worker or someone in long-term care.

“There’s no reason for them to be putting their lives at risk.”

GM told Global News Thursday they have already started producing medical supplies in partnership with community leaders.

Communications director Jennifer Wright said “we have our engineers supporting Ontario Tech University and OPG on the development of medical face shields and our first delivery of donated personal protective equipment is being picked up soon b the Public Health Agency of Canada from our Oshawa Parts Plant.”

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READ MORE: B.C. automotive association wants parts of industry declared an essential service during COVID-19

Canada’s innovation ministry also commented on the matter.

“We welcome General Motors’ valuable donations of personal protective and safety equipment and sanitizing supplies to help front-line workers and look forward to exploring how we can work together in the future,” said Veronique Simard, a spokesperson for Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and industry.

Durham Regional Chair John Henry says he supports the proposal from Green Jobs Oshawa.

“I’m supportive of anything that can be done to benefit the residents of not only Durham, but all of this country,” he said.

READ MORE: The new COVID-19 benefit for workers has launched: Here’s how to apply

As for Keetch, she says she’d like to see the federal government lend its resources so that the plant can get up and running as soon as possible.

“We’re in a war right now,” she said.

“We need to have the government step up and take bold, decisive action.”

Click to play video 'Panelists weigh in on the future of Oshawa' Panelists weigh in on the future of Oshawa
Panelists weigh in on the future of Oshawa – Oct 17, 2019