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Factory workers wary as Detroit's 'Big 3' begin to motor back up – CTV News



Detroit’s auto giants are keen to resume production this week, but there will be unease on assembly lines where social distancing is difficult and worries about the deadly coronavirus persist.

Motor City carmakers insist they are taking precautions to protect employees for the ramp-up that marks a key moment in the attempted relaunching of the US economy.

But not everyone is convinced.

“I am expecting a bumpy ride,” said one United Auto Workers official, who asked for anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly.

The “Big Three,” which have the experience of relaunching in Asia, have set their U.S. restart for May 18.

That is the same day Tesla has been cleared by local regulators in California to resume full production following a faceoff between public health officials and brash Tesla boss Elon Musk that apparently was resolved with a compromise on enhanced safety measures.

Unlike California, Michigan has been the site of armed marches to the state capitol in protest over restrictions imposed by Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer. Under pressure from the state’s automotive suppliers and carmakers, she modified her stay-at-home orders to allow for the resumption of manufacturing with social distancing.

After effectively shutting down in March to combat the deadly virus, U.S. carmakers say they are now ready to get back to business.

“Above everything else, our top priority has always been to do what is right for our employees,” Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley said in a statement this week.

“We have worked closely with the unions to establish protocols that will ensure our employees feel safe at work and that every step possible has been taken to protect them.”


The monumental tasks at FCA includes sanitizing 57 million square feet of production space and implementing new disinfection schedules to maintain hygiene. Some 4,700 work stations were modified to allow for social distancing.

Temperature checks and daily health self-screening are required for all employees and visitors; start times will be staggered; and break and lunch times will be altered to increase social distancing. Everyone will have to wear face masks and safety goggles, FCA officials said.

Manley said FCA was using what it has learned from opening plants in China and Italy as it resumes production in the US, Mexico and Canada.

General Motors and Ford have described similar measures.

Jim Glynn, a vice president for workplace safety at GM, said on a conference call that workers will follow a strict protocol each day beginning with filling out a questionnaire and having a temperature scan.

“We have not had one case of person-to-person spread among our employees” when the rules have been followed at GM’s plants in Asia and at US plants now making medical equipment, Glynn said.

However, none of the companies will test employees regularly. Kiersten Robinson, Ford’s chief human resources officer, said during a conference call there is not enough capacity for regular tests.


Lack of testing is an issue for the UAW, which has stopped short of endorsing the industry’s return to work model. The union also pressed GM, Ford and FCA to relax their policies on absenteeism so workers will stay home or self-quarantine if they feel ill.

“While it is the companies that have the sole contractual right to determine the opening of plants, we have the contractual right to protect our members, and we will do so at all costs,” said UAW President Rory Gamble.

“We have made it clear in our talks that we are asking for as much testing as possible at the current time.”

Gamble has praised Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders that have sparked gun-toting protests outside the state capitol building Michigan. The state has had about 50,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and nearly 4,800 fatalities.

The union’s reticence is due in part to the fact more half of GM, Ford and FCA workers are over 50. Also, nearly three dozen auto workers have died from COVID-19, according to the UAW.

“I’m personally not ready to return to work and feel they are rushing to get us back into the plant to make a profit at the expense of those working there,” said one anonymous worker in a Facebook post, adding that it is “almost impossible” to socially distance at an auto plant facing ambitious production targets.

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London region sees 28400 jobs lost to COVID-19 – CTV News London



The unemployment rate in London increased dramatically in May, according to Statistics Canada.

London’s jobless rate climbed to 11.7 per cent in May, compared to 8.9 per cent in April.

It’s the lowest number of people working in London since 2003, when there were over 80,000 fewer people living in the area.

Based on a three-month rolling average, London-St. Thomas has lost 28,400 people from its labour force – and that’s just since February.

That figure includes Shannon Rumble, “Since the beginning when everything shut down, I haven’t been to work at all.”

Temporarily laid off from her job as a line cook, federal CERB payments are helping, but Rumble needs things to get back to normal soon.

“I’m a single mom, so (my daughter) can’t go to day care. My parents are helping out, but I can’t go to work if she can’t go to school or day care,” she explains.

“Its not just numbers, it’s people,” London Mayor Ed Holder isn’t sugar coating the situation, “It impacts people on a very personal level and if you are trying to make a mortgage (payment), or make sure your kids are alright, I get that.”

From the perspective of businesses, Holder says large employers who are part of his COVID-19 economic task force are balancing an urgent desire to get staff back to work, with the need to keep them safe from COVID-19.

“We will be doing business, we may just be doing it differently,” he says.

Holder predicts a moderate, consistent comeback as businesses reopen, “I am optimistic that, while I don’t think it’s a quick recovery, I think it will be steady.”

On a national level, Statistics Canada reported a record high unemployment rate even as the economy added 289,600 jobs in May, with businesses reopening amid easing public health restrictions.

The national unemployment rate rose to 13.7 per cent, topping the previous high of 13.1 per cent set in December 1982.

The increase in the unemployment rate came as more people started looking for work.

The increase in the number of jobs come after three million were lost over March and April.

The average estimate from economists is for the loss of 500,000 jobs in May and for the unemployment rate to rise to 15.0 per cent, according to financial markets data firm Refinitiv.

– With files from CTV’s Melanie Borrelli and The Canadian Press.

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What do the new CMHC rules mean for homebuyers? –



Getting mortgage default insurance is about to get harder after Canada’s federal housing agency announced stricter lending standards on Thursday.

The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC) says it will no longer allow homebuyers to use borrowed funds for their down payment, will require a higher credit score from at least one borrower and will lower the threshold for how much debt applicants can carry compared to their income.

The changes, which come into effect July 1, will reduce the purchasing power of homebuyers who opt for CMHC insurance and likely leave insured mortgage applicants in pricey markets with fewer options, according to mortgage brokers.

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Should you buy a house during the coronavirus crisis?

Should you buy a house during the coronavirus crisis?
CMHC’s new debt-ratio policy will lower homebuyers’ purchasing power by up to 11 per cent, according to Robert McLister, founder of rates comparisons site

For example, someone making $60,000 a year with a five per cent down payment and no pre-existing debt would be able to afford a home with a maximum home price that is roughly 11 per cent lower than what they would have been able to buy before the new rules, according to McLister’s calculations.

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Economists say the measures could discourage some prospective homebuyers from entering the market.

CMHC said it will require a credit score of at least 680, up from the current minimum of 600. It will also lower the maximum amount of debt applicants are allowed to carry compared to their income.

To measure the latter, lenders use two key metrics: the gross debt service ratio (GDS), or the share of income used to cover the mortgage and other housing costs like property taxes, and the total debt service ratio (TDS), the share of income used to cover housing costs plus the cost of servicing other debts.

CMHC is lowering the maximum GDS from 39 per cent to 35 per cent and the maximum TDS from 44 per cent to 42 per cent.

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Open House: Pros and cons of reverse mortgages

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Changes to the GDS threshold and the credit score minimum will have the greatest impact on affordability, said James Laird, co-founder of financial products comparisons site and president of mortgage brokerage CanWise Financial, in a statement via email.

Banning the use of borrowed funds to finance down payments will likely have a more marginal effect, as most Canadians rely on savings, investments and financial help from family for down payments, Laird added.

Mortgage insurance, which protects lenders from the risk of borrowers defaulting on their payments, is mandatory in Canada for loans with a down payment of less than 20 per cent.

Mortgage default insurance is available from CMHC as well as private companies such as Genworth MI Canada Inc. and Canada Guaranty Mortgage Insurance Co.

While the new CMHC rules do not apply to Canada’s private mortgage insurers, they could adopt the new policy on a voluntary basis.

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Private mortgage insurance providers could become “the only games left in town” for homebuyers in expensive markets like Toronto and Vancouver, where borrowers generally have higher debt ratios, McLister noted.⁠

McLister is critical of CMHC’s decision to tighten the rules at a time when the economy is already reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 public health restrictions.

“Normally, you don’t rock the boat when you’re already taking on water,” McLister wrote in a blog post shortly after the policy announcement. “But that’s what CMHC has done,” he added.

Canada’s housing agency has said it’s concerned that already high household debt levels will soar in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis, increasing the risk that overstretched homeowners won’t be able to keep up with their mortgage payments.

The new rules “will protect homebuyers, reduce government and taxpayer risk and support the stability of housing markets while curtailing excessive demand and unsustainable house price growth,” said CMHC head Evan Siddall in a statement.

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— With files from the Canadian Press

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Unexpectedly Strong Jobs Report Sends Oil Soaring –



U.S. West Texas Intermediate crude oil futures are trading at their highest levels of the week on Friday and inside the price gap created on March 9 when the market opened sharply lower, officially starting the coronavirus-related plunge. The price action strongly suggests the buying is getting stronger especially if traders fill the gap.

The market was initially supported after a report said OPEC and its allies led by Russia would meet on Saturday to discuss extending record oil production cuts and to approve a new approach that aims to force laggards such as Iraq and Nigeria to comply better with the existing curbs.

A second surge in the market occurred following the release of a much better-than-expected U.S. Non-Farm Payrolls report. This surprisingly strong report is a sign that the economy is improving much faster than previously expected, meaning that demand will pick up at a much faster pace than currently estimated.

OPEC+ Wants an Extension and Better Compliance

Saturday’s meetings would start with talks between members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and be followed by a gathering of the OPEC+ group, an OPEC+ source said, after Algerian and Russian media reported the meetings, Reuters reported.

Two OPEC+ sources said Saudi Arabia and Russia had agreed to extend the deeper cuts until the end of July but they said Riyadh was also pushing to extend them until the end of August.

Three OPEC sources said…

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