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Union members race to convert factories to produce supplies for Covid-19 patients

26 March, 2020In the wake of the Corona epidemic, workplaces are changing production to join the fight against the virus.

In Wisconsin, US, more than 340 workers employed at GE Datex-Ohmeda are in a race against the clock to produce ventilators. Members of IndustriALL affiliate Machinist Union (IAM) Local 1406, who build anesthesia, respiratory and infant care machines, ratified a one-year emergency contract extension on 19 March in a lightning fast attempt to meet the sudden increased demand for ventilators across the globe.

The goal is to produce as many ventilators as possible in the next 90 days.

“After struggling with the short notice of negotiating a contract extension, I am proud of our union body for gathering so quickly and agreeing on a contract with GE Healthcare,”

said Local 1406 Shop Committee Chairperson Sheila Jourdan.

“This contract extension shows we as union members can do our part in helping with this pandemic.”

IAM International President Robert Martinez, Jr., said:

“It is because of hard-working and dedicated men and women like the membership of Local 1406 that I know we will get through this crisis. They are an inspiration to all of us in a time when the whole world needs to be joining together in solidarity to tackle this pandemic. They are literally saving lives and our entire union is incredibly proud of them.”

In the US, textile companies have responded to a call by the government for medical supplies urgently needed, and have built a supply chain to manufacture facemasks for healthcare workers.

Car manufacturer Ford is now making transparent face shields for hospital staff, expecting to produce around 75,000 this week.

Brazilian metal company Flex has been selected by the country’s Ministry of Health to produce respirators to be used in intensive care units to combat Covid-19.

The Metalworkers union of Sorocaba and region (SMetal), affiliated to CNM/CUT, is negotiating with the company to ensure that adequate protective measures are in place to protect the workers. The union has also requested information on how many workers are needed, and is currently in negotiations for the rest of the workers to take collective holidays.

In Spain, IndustriALL affiliate CCOO has asked companies to dedicate resources to combat the epidemic. The textile and shoe industry has responded to the appeal and will manufacture work clothes for medical professionals, instead of clothes for the coming spring and summer. Three of the 13 Inditex factories in Galicia will dedicate production to hospital uniforms.