Toyota to temporarily halt production at 2 Ontario plants amid coronavirus outbreak

Toyota says it will temporarily shut down production plants across North America, including two in Ontario, starting Monday due to ongoing concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

Plants in Cambridge and Woodstock will stop production for two days starting Monday

Line workers assemble a Lexus SUV at the Toyota plant in Cambridge, Ont., in 2015. The company announced it would temporarily suspend production at its two Ontario plants amid coronavirus concerns. (Aaron Lynett/The Canadian Press)

Toyota says it's halting production at all of its North American plants, including its two Ontario factories, starting Monday in order to "conduct a thorough cleaning" and ensure the safety of its workers amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. 

CBC News obtained a copy of the unsigned letter, dated March 18, that was reportedly handed to employees as they left production plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, Ont. after their shifts on Wednesday afternoon. 

The announcement said all of Toyota's plants in Canada, Mexico and the United States will suspend production on Monday, March 23, with production coming back online Wednesday, March 25. 

"Toyota will continue to offer full pay during this two-day shutdown period for all full time and contract team members," the letter said, noting that there will be "zero overtime" when employees return on Wednesday. 

During the shutdown, the company said it would undertake "a thorough cleaning of all of our facilities" and would allow employees "the opportunity to prepare and adjust your plans for upcoming school and other facility closures that are designed to stop the spread" of the virus. 

Toyota said it has already taken a number of steps to protect employees, including limiting the number of people employees are exposed to, ramping up disinfection protocols between shifts and implementing social distancing where possible. 

Michael Bouliane, Toyota Canada's manager of communications, said in an email that on top of the safety measures, the temporary shutdown was to address "an anticipated decline in market demand related to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic." 

"The safety and security of our employees, stakeholders and communities are a top priority, and we will continue to monitor the situation and take action in a timely manner," he wrote.