Michelin temporarily shuts down tire production in Canada, U.S.

Michelin will temporarily shut down its tire production facilities in the U.S. and Canada due to the "broad effects of COVID-19."

In a news release on Friday, the company said the "phased suspension" of some manufacturing will begin immediately and will last at least two weeks.

Michelin operates facilities in Nova Scotia in Granton, Waterville and Bridgewater and employs about 3,500 people in the province.

A spokesperson for Michelin told CBC News in an email the company will "scale back production at its plants in Nova Scotia, but details have not been finalized." A plan in Nova Scotia is expected to be implemented next week.

"Michelin remains focused on the health and well-being of its employees and communities, and the company is developing plans and revising policies to mitigate the financial impacts of this temporary shutdown on its employees," Michelin said in a news release.

A spokesperson for the company told CBC News over the phone on Saturday every plant is different and will have a different level of shut down and will have a different timeline.

The affected production currently excludes "vital and critical tires for the country's economic continuity."

Distribution and logistics activities will continue to support customers through existing inventories, the company said.

"The company will continue to follow closely all guidelines and directions from state, local or provincial governments, with the goal of limiting the spread of the virus and consequences of the pandemic for employees, customers and partners."

'Consequences of the outbreak are very real'

Sean Fraser, MP for Central Nova, said he found out about plans to shut down the plants on Friday. He said he's been working to help formulate the federal government's economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

"The economic consequences of the outbreak are very real and they're being felt today," Fraser said.

"We need to work not only with large employers and small businesses, but also with different provincial governments as we formulate a plan that's going to ensure people have the support they need."

Fraser said there were 500,000 applications Canada-wide into the employment insurance system last week alone. This time last year, it was only 27,000 applications.

"This is, by every account, is record-breaking, but not in a good way. The global economic consequences as a result of this outbreak are very serious," he said.

Robert Short/CBC

With Michelin, Fraser said he understands the company is acting in the interests of public health.

Fraser said he hasn't personally spoken to any plant workers yet. He said he's spent the weekend trying to help Canadians who are stranded abroad. His staff is working from home.

"The No. 1 thing we can do to mitigate the economic consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak is to get through the public health emergency," Fraser said. 

"That's going to require everyone, including employees and employers, take what steps they can to practise social distancing and practise self-isolation where appropriate.

"Once the dust settles and people have support during the interim period, we'll have a better picture of what the long-term economic consequences of this outbreak are."

CBC

Nova Scotia Business Minister Geoff MacLellan was asked about the Michelin plants at a provincial COVID-19 update on Friday before the company made its announcement.

He said he was in touch with the company's lead in Nova Scotia to talk about the COVID-19 impact.

"With respect to Michelin directly, they're obviously following all of the health protocols while maintaining a certain amount of their operation in the near future," MacLellan said.

"[Michelin's Nova Scotia lead] and his team understand the impact of COVID-19 and how it's hitting our economy, hitting his workers and their families, and they're going to do the best to keep their employees whole [and] make sure that as many as possible can be part of the continuing production."

Michelin North America has more than 21,400 employees and operates 19 major manufacturing plants. All of their Canadian manufacturing plants are in Nova Scotia.

On Thursday, the Irving Shipyard, another large employer in Nova Scotia, announced it temporarily laid off 1,100 workers because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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