General Motors of Canada Ltd. is going to start producing up to a million face masks per month at its facility in Oshawa, Ont., the company said Friday.

The company said 50 employees working two shifts will soon be used to produce the masks, which are in short supply for health-care professionals on the front lines of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

GM has not built any new vehicles at its Oshawa facility since December 2019, but the company will convert portions of the facility to mask-making after the parent company was able to hammer out a system that works at GM facilities in Michigan.

“The project still requires completion of additional work with our governments and our Unifor partners, and we will provide updates as we get ready to begin production,” the company said in a statement, adding that the masks will be sold to authorities at cost.

GM Canada’s biggest union, Unifor, has already signed off on the plan.

“Unifor members in Oshawa are highly skilled and proud to step up and make whatever our country needs to get through this pandemic,” Unifor president Jerry Dias said in a release. “The fact that Unifor members will help GM produce as many as a million fabric masks a month, for Health Canada at cost, is an example of what we can do when we work together.”

Innovation, Science and Industry Minister Navdeep Bains gave the company and the entire automotive sector kudos for “stepping up in a big way to retool in the fight against COVID-19.”

In an emailed statement to CBC News, Bains said, “We are rising to the challenge, supporting our hard-working front line and essential workers, and keeping Canadians safe.”

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