Coronavirus: Reopening auto firms safely can serve as ‘example’ for others, CEO says

Automakers across the continent are pushing to reopen their plants amid the novel coronavirus pandemic and one industry leader says if the sector can get it right, they can serve as a model for others.

In an interview with The West Block‘s Mercedes Stephenson, Linamar CEO Linda Hasenfratz said while she acknowledges it is a difficult call to make on when to reopen industries, the auto industry is shifting into “recovery mode” and believes it can set a positive example for others on reopening safely.

“When we do come out, the virus is still going to be around us so paramount, number one, is making sure when we’re coming back to work, we’re coming back to work safely,” she said.

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“I think it’s going to actually be quite good that the auto industry is taking a first step in that regard and can show as an example.”

Some of the biggest automakers south of the border — Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota — are mobilizing to get their production lines started again in the first week of May with a focus on distancing workers and providing protective gear.

Linamar is the second-largest auto parts producer in Canada and Hasenfratz said they and others are working to put strict measures in place to keep workers safe.

Those include having all employees use masks, doing health screenings and temperature testing before allowing employees into the facilities, physical distancing in work areas and staggering breaks.

The conversation comes as an unprecedented number of Canadians have lost their jobs, seen work hours cut or are attempting to do their work from home amid the global pandemic.

There are more than 31,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and more than 1,300 deaths so far in Canada.

Globally, 2.2 million people have been infected and more than 146,000 have died.

Canada also lost one million jobs in March because of the pandemic and 44 per cent of Canadian households report experiencing lost work or layoffs as a result.

Linamar is among the Canadian automakers shifting their production lines to making parts for ventilators, which are critically needed in order to help patients fighting COVID-19.

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