Toyota Woodstock and GM Ingersoll ramping up this week
OXFORD COUNTY, ONT. -- It’s back to work, for some, Monday at both Woodstock’s Toyota and Ingersoll’s GM CAMI assembly plants.
But while each is ramping up to begin production, Toyota will be the first to see a vehicle come off the line.
The plant on the city’s east end has been idled since late March when the novel coronavirus outbreak sent workers home.
Toyota was among the last major manufacturers to take that action.
Starting Monday, only about 15 per cent of the workforce - made up of team leaders and above - returned.
They’ll be joined later in the week by assembly staff, as a slow ramp up to full production continues.
But the assembly floor will look far different as workers return.
Employees will wear everything from basic face masks to custom-designed face shields when in close proximity. Plastic barriers will also separate some workers on the assembly line.
Before entering the plant workers will have to confirm their health status, and have their temperatures taken by thermal cameras.
They will also be arriving on staggered shifts.
One Woodstock Toyota employee, who asked not to be named, said he’s happy to see the lunch room has been rebuilt to ensure physical distancing and also pleased to see all work stations will be wiped clean four times each shift in his area.
The added measures are examples of the company doing what they can to ensure safety, he says, but still he has reservations.
“I’m not too worried, but we’ll see. It’s a learning curve a new way of working. It’s a new way of life.”
The employee says many of his colleagues are thankful Toyota has paid most of its workers throughout the seven weeks the plant has been shut down.
Yet, some workers at plants supplying Toyota are not as fortunate.
Duane Howling is among them.
He was laid off March 19. He’s still not been recalled, but hopes to be soon.
“I’ve had people who are midway up the seniority who’ve been called back, so I’m hoping another week or two and I’ll be back myself. I wanna get back and I want to be safe.”
Meanwhile at the GM Cami Assembly in Ingersoll, most workers will have to wait a little while longer before getting back to work.
Unifor Local 88 says unionized workers are being recalled over the next two weeks.
Fewer than 50 tradespeople return this week. They will be followed by a skeleton crew of paint, weld and materials workers on May 18.
Full production of Chevrolet Equinox’s is excepted to commence May 25.
And when it does, expect similar safety protocols to Toyota. Unifor Local 88 Plant Chair Mike Van Boekel says the union and GM have been working together.
“The buy-in on both parties has been excellent. I will say on this issue, we are working as one, because obviously the most important aspect is safety. All we can do is take every reasonable caution and try and hopefully ensure our members are safe when they go home everyday.”
Another change for CAMI will be the speed of production, Van Boekel says, it’s still unknown by how much, but he acknowledges the plant will not be able to make as many cars, in a shift as it did prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.