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Honda to shut UK car plant in 2022 with the loss of 3,500 jobs

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LONDON (Reuters) – Japanese car maker Honda is set to announce it’s closing its only British car plant in 2022 with the loss of 3,500 jobs, a lawmaker told Reuters, in the latest blow to the UK car industry as Brexit approaches.

A closure of Honda’s Swindon factory in southern England would be its second plant shuttering in 2022. The automaker said more than a year ago it will close one of its Japan plants in 2022, in an effort to consolidate production as it focuses on new vehicle technologies.

Honda built over 160,000 vehicles at Swindon, where it makes the hatchback version of its popular Civic model, accounting for a little more than 10 percent of Britain’s total output of 1.52 million cars.

But it has struggled in Europe in recent years, and the industry faces a number of challenges including declining diesel vehicle demand and tougher regulations alongside the uncertainty over Britain’s departure from the European Union, due next month.

Justin Tomlinson, a Conservative lawmaker for Swindon who voted for Brexit in 2016, said he had met with the business minister and representatives from Honda who had confirmed the plans.

“They were due to make a statement tomorrow morning, it’s obviously broken early,” Tomlinson, lawmaker for North Swindon, told Reuters.

“This is not Brexit-related. It is a reflection of the global market. They are seeking to consolidate production in Japan.”

Honda said it would not be providing any comment on the “speculation”.

“We take our responsibilities to our associates very seriously and will always communicate any significant news with them first,” the firm said.

A lorry with car carrier trailer leaves the Honda car plant in Swindon, Britain, February 18, 2019. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh

Honda announced in October 2017 it would stop making vehicles at its Sayama plant in Japan by 2022 as it grapples with a shrinking domestic market.

Like many of its global rivals, Honda is trying to streamline its operations as it invests heavily to develop electric vehicles and self-driving cars, transforming itself from simply a manufacturer of cars into a mobility company.

Japan has repeatedly warned it could pull investments in Britain, which it had seen as a gateway into Europe, if London does not secure a Brexit deal favorable for trade.

The recently agreed EU-Japan trade agreement means tariffs on cars from Japan to the continent will be eliminated, while Britain is struggling to make progress on talks over post-Brexit trade relations with Tokyo.

NISSAN’S MOVE

Honda’s announcement would come just over two weeks after bigger Japanese car maker Nissan canceled plans to build its X-Trail sport utility vehicle in Britain.

In January, Britain’s biggest automaker Jaguar Land Rover said it would cut 10 percent of its workforce, mainly at home, due to sluggish sales to China and a slump in European diesel demand.

“The car industry in the UK over the last two decades has been the jewel in the crown for the manufacturing sector – and now it has been brought low by the chaotic Brexit uncertainty,” said Des Quinn, national officer for the automotive sector at Unite, Britain’s biggest trade union.

Honda said last month it would shut its British operations for six days in April to help counter any border disruption from Brexit. It was also preparing to front-load some production at its plant to ship overseas or build up inventories.

Slideshow (8 Images)

Nissan, Honda and a third Japanese car maker, Toyota Motor Corp, together account for roughly half of the cars built in Britain.

Honda, which has been building more cars for sale outside of Europe in recent years, said earlier this month its production volumes at Swindon would be reduced to 570 cars per day and that it would make job cuts.

“This reduction in volume will not have any impact on our permanent resource levels, and is in line with our current production plans,” the company said.

Additional reporting by Alistair Smout and William Schomberg; Naomi Tajitsu in Tokyo; Editing by Mark Potter, David Evans and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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Ottawa education workers still teaching special-ed students at schools want safety checks

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Some Ottawa educators say they are concerned about the safety of classrooms that remain open in schools for special-education students.

Ontario elementary and secondary students have been sent home to study virtually because of the dangers posed by rising rates of COVID-19. However, special-education classes are still operating at many bricks-and-mortar schools.

The special-education classes include students with physical and developmental disabilities, autism and behaviour problems. Some don’t wear masks and require close physical care.

Two unions representing teachers and educational assistants at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board have sent letters to Ottawa Public Health expressing their concerns.

It’s urgent that public health officials inspect classrooms to assess the safety of the special-ed classes, said a letter from the Ottawa branch of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which also represents the educational assistants who work with special-needs children.

“In the absence of reasons based on medical evidence to keep specialized systems classes open, we are unsure as to the safety of staff and students in these programs,” said the letter signed by president Stephanie Kirkey and other union executives.

The letter said staff agreed that students in specialized classes had difficulty with remote education and benefited most from in-person instruction.

“Our members care deeply about the students they work with and are not only concerned about their own health and safety, but also about that of their students, as they are often unable to abide by COVID safety protocols that include masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, thus making it more likely that they could transmit the virus to one another,” the letter said.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board has 1,286 elementary and secondary students in special-education classes attending in person at 87 schools, said spokesperson Darcy Knoll.

While final numbers were not available, Knoll said the board believed a large number of the special-education students were back in class on Friday at schools.

In-person classes for other elementary and secondary students are scheduled to resume Jan. 25.

The school boards provide PPE for educators in special-education classes as required, including surgical masks, face shields, gloves and gowns.

Several educators interviewed said they don’t understand why it has been deemed unsafe for students in mainstream classes to attend class, but not special-ed students.

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Ottawa sets record of 210 new COVID-19 cases following lag in data reporting

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Ottawa has now broken its daily record for new COVID-19 cases twice in 2021, with 210 new cases added on Friday amid a lag in data reports from earlier in the week.

The nation’s capital has now seen 10,960 cases of the novel coronavirus.

Ottawa Public Health’s COVID-19 dashboard reports 977 active cases of the virus in Ottawa, a jump of more than 100 over Thursday’s figures.

One additional person has died in relation to COVID-19 in Ottawa, raising the city’s death toll in the pandemic to 395.

The record-setting case count comes a day after Ottawa reported a relatively low increase of 68 cases. Ontario’s COVID-19 system had meanwhile reported 164 new cases on Thursday.

OPH said Thursday that due to a large number of case reports coming in late Wednesday, the local system did not account for a large portion of cases. The health unit said it expects the discrepancy to be filled in the subsequent days.

Taken together, Thursday and Friday’s reports add 278 cases to Ottawa’s total, a daily average of 139 cases.

The new single-day record surpasses a benchmark set this past Sunday, when the city recorded 184 new cases.

Ontario also reported a new record of 4,249 cases on Friday, with roughly 450 of those cases added due to a lag in reporting in Toronto.

The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 also continues to climb in Ottawa. OPH’s dashboard shows there are currently 24 people in hospital with COVID-19, seven of whom are in the intensive care unit.

Three new coronavirus outbreaks were added to OPH’s dashboard on Friday. One outbreak affects a local shelter where one resident has tested positive for the virus, while the other two are traced to workplaces and private settings in the community.

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Ottawa family dealing with mould issue in apartment grateful for support

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OTTAWA — An Ottawa family, who has been dealing with mould in their south Ottawa apartment, is grateful for the support they have received from the community.

“I would like to say big very mighty, big thank you to everyone,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

Adeniyi lives with her three sons in a South Keys apartment. Her son Desmond turned to social media on Sunday to seek help for the family, saying they’ve been dealing with mould in their unit and it has taken too long to fix.

“I see my mom go through a struggle everyday; with three kids, it’s not easy,” says 16-year-old Desmond Adeniyi.

He setup a GoFundMe page to help the family raise money to move out. After gaining online attention and the story, which originally aired CTV News Ottawa on Tuesday, they have been able to raise over $30,000.

“Yes! I was surprised, a big surprise!” says Nofisat Adeniyi, “We are free from the mess that we’ve been going through.”

The family was so touched, they decided to pay it forward and donated $5,000 to another family in need, “A lady my son told me about,” says Nofisat Adeniyi.

The recipient wants to remain anonymous, but when she found out from Adeniyi, “She was crying, she has three kids; I remember when I was, I can feel what she’s feeling – because I was once in those shoes.”

CTV News Ottawa did reach out to the property management company for an update on the mould. In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesperson for COGIR Realty wrote:

“We respect the privacy of our residents and are unable to disclose any specific information regarding any of our residents. We can, however, let you know that we are working with the residents and are making every effort to resolve this matter as soon as possible,” said Cogir Real Estate

The giving did not stop at just cash donations. “When I saw the segment, the thing that struck me the most was how easily the situation can be resolved,” says mould removal expert Charlie Leduc with Mold Busters in Ottawa.

Leduc is not involved in the case, but appeared in the original story, and after seeing the mould on TV wanted to help.

“This isn’t something that we typically do, but given the circumstance and given the fact that this has gone on way too long, our company is willing to go in and do this work for free,” said Leduc.

The Adeniyi family may now have some options, and are grateful to the community for the support.

“Yes, It’s great news — you can see me smiling,” says Nofisat.

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