Interview conducted on October 6, 2020 with AFILOG, the French professional association of logistics players.
Could you give me a brief overview of confinement in Canada?
In Canada, each provincial government decides on the level of confinement . At the height of the crisis, Quebec – which is the province in which GMR Safety is based – imposed total confinement and a good number of companies even had to cease operations. This situation lasted until the end of April — when some companies were able to gradually resume operations. Of course, those that offered services that were recognized as essential remained open and were able to continue to operate. Because GMR Safety is a provider of essential services to businesses, we were also able to stay open in April while reducing our operations. But fortunately, from the beginning of May until today, we have returned to full production.
How did GMR Safety manage the health crisis during confinement?
For 5 weeks, from early April to mid-May, we reduced our operations to essential services. Therefore, during this period, approximately 75% of the employees had to be laid off. Each of them was able to benefit from the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and we decided to pay an additional 10% of the employee’s salary. In addition, during this period, we paid the group insurance for medication and offered a 0% loan to anyone who wanted it.
As far as health and safety measures are concerned, GMR Safety always follows to the letter all the government’s recommendations — or more. And to date, no employee has ever been affected by COVID19 in the professional framework.
On a relational level, whether it’s with our customers or our employees, it was very important for us to maintain a link and stay in touch. That’s why, internally for example, we quickly started organizing weekly virtual meetings and using WORKPLACE, a social network for companies. This was all the more important because traditional activities that allowed employees to meet outside of work unfortunately could not take place. I am thinking in particular of the outing to the sugar shack or the corn roast.
Following this health crisis, have there been delivery delays, manufacturing problems or safety problems on the sites?
Everyone at GMR Safety was very responsive and resourceful in the face of the challenges . During the five most intense weeks, for example, we met daily with the management team to take stock.
Also, we made sure to find solutions with what we had: for example, some of our suppliers couldn’t deliver all the parts, so we adapted and made special agreements with our customers to be able to satisfy them as best we could.
Have you received any state aid?
We were able to benefit from employment assistance programs for our employees who were working, and we also had training grants that helped develop the skill level of our employees.
Do you think that this crisis in the company’s business will have an impact in the medium term?
This crisis has changed the way we work. For example, we now conclude contracts without meeting the client in person — only by videoconference.
And we haven’t lost any projects — they’ve simply been postponed. That’s why we will end the year with a significant growth rate. This is also thanks to sectors such as pharmaceuticals, mass distribution and especially e-commerce in which we are present.
How will the deconfinement be managed?
We are currently experiencing a second wave that is generating new restrictions and closures — such as that of bars and restaurants. Otherwise, companies can continue their activities and we hope that this will continue.
Employees are encouraged to telework as much as possible, given the nature of their jobs. However, there is a collective willingness to get together while respecting health measures. This reflects the confidence that employees have in the precautions taken and the importance of human relations at GMR Safety.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
This crisis has been a time of questioning, and it has allowed us to refocus on our values of Innovation, Teamwork and Fun. It has also allowed us to reinvent ourselves: whether with our external partners or internally with our employees — innovation in the way we do things is now reflected at all levels.
Finally, in spite of all the hardships we have been facing for several months, the work to expand our factory to reach a surface area of 5000m² continues, and its construction will even be completed on time. It will be fully operational before Christmas 2020 and we are very much looking forward to its inauguration! Especially since we hope to celebrate the 25th anniversary of GMR Safety there together in January 2021.
Interview also available in French on afilog.org