Kitchener-Waterloo

Toyota extends Canadian plant shutdown to April 20

Toyota has pushed back its plans to re-open its Canadian manufacturing facilities in Cambridge and Woodstock due to the COVID-19 pandemic and 'decline in vehicle demand.'

Shutdown affects all North American automobile, components plants

The move comes after two workers tested positive for COVID-19 at Toyota's Cambridge, Ont., manufacturing plant. (Getty Images)

Toyota has pushed back plans to re-open its Canadian manufacturing facilities in Cambridge, Ont. and Woodstock, Ont. due to the COVID-19 pandemic and "decline in vehicle demand." 

It's part of a larger move affecting all Toyota automobile and components plants. 

Manufacturing facilities in Canada, Mexico and the United States will now stay closed through to April 17, with a plan to start up production again on April 20, said a statement posted on the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Company website on Thursday morning. 

Previously, the company had said operations in Cambridge and Woodstock would resume on April 6 — three days later than in its other automobile and components plants in North America. 

Two Toyota workers test positive

Two workers from the Cambridge plant have tested positive for COVID-19 — one week apart. One tested positive on March 18 and the second on March 25

Company spokesperson Michael Bouliane said the two were in close contact with one another and have been in self-isolation at home. 

After the first positive diagnosis, Toyota said it would put operations on pause for two days for a "thorough cleaning" with production resuming on March 25. 

The company was sharply criticized for the move, with Cambridge MP Bryan May calling on the company to close "as soon as possible." 

Later that day the company announced its decision to halt production until April 6. 

Ultimately the choice to fully halt production was taken "to protect the health and safety of our employees, key stakeholders and communities," said Bouliane in an email statement at the time. 

'There's somebody here with COVID-19'

Since then, May has said he feels the company may have been unfairly vilified. 

On Thursday in an interview with CBC News, May said a lack of immediate transparency whipped up rumours and incorrect information.

"I was getting calls from people saying 'There's somebody here with COVID-19, we're not shut down.' None of that was accurate."

May said, in fact, the worker had been on holiday the week before and came back to work the week of the 12th. They started showing symptoms and were immediately sent home, got tested and Hamilton Public Health Services reached out to Toyota when that result came back positive. 

"I think it's important to recognize those systems are in place and Toyota did everything they were asked to do by public health in terms of cleaning and isolating the people who might have been in contact with that person," said May."

Supporting sectors thankful Toyota closed: May

Toyota's shutdown has had wide-ranging implications, said May Thursday. He said it showed other companies, manufacturers and suppliers in the region that support Toyota, that they were free to shut down as well. 

"They were struggling. They were like: the moral decision to shut down is there, but if we shut down and we lose Toyota as a customer, we may not get them back. So there were these economic forces in play that were really hampering their decisions." 

"I've talked to a lot of companies this week who were thankful that Toyota shut down so they could shut down as well."

May said he never imagined he'd find himself calling for, then applauding the closure of the largest employer in his constituency. 

"Goodness, if you had told me that I'd be calling for the shut down for Toyota even as early as a month ago I would have thought you were crazy. This is an almost a surreal situation that we're finding ourselves in."

May said he maintains this is the right move. 

The company has three plants in Ontario and employs between 8,000 and 9,000 people. All employees are being paid during the plant closure. 

Clarifications

  • An earlier version of the story stated "According to Toyota's website [link], the Cambridge North plant builds the Corolla sedan, the South plant manufactures the Lexus RX 350 and RX 450h. The Woodstock plant makes the Toyota Rav4." Numerous people have told CBC the Corolla is no longer built in Cambridge and that the corporate website as quoted is incorrect. Toyota Manufacturing has been asked for clarification.
    Mar 28, 2020 12:00 PM ET

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