TTC workers on the frontlines during coronavirus pandemic

TORONTO, ONTARIO  – Carlos Santos, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, today called on the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to supply personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the government looks to increase the supply of PPE for frontline workers in Ontario, it is important to include public transit workers in these plans.

Exposed to thousands of riders each day, TTC workers must have access to protective face masks and other equipment if they choose to wear it.

“With Premier Doug Ford warning of a coronavirus surge in Ontario, TTC management must move fast to protect public transit workers,” said Carlos Santos. “As Ontario looks to meet demand for PPE, we must remember our public transit workers who are among the heroes of this pandemic. We must find a way to protect health care professionals and all those working on the frontlines during this health crisis, including public transit workers.”

Since early this year, ATU Local 113 has demanded the TTC provide workers with the choice to wear protective masks on the job. It was only on March 18 when the TTC agreed to the union’s strong demands to allow workers the choice to wear protective masks – provided they bring their own masks from home.

The TTC had resisted allowing workers to wear protective masks on the job citing health officials’ claims they do not provide protection. However, new medical opinions suggest face masks can help protect people during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States revised its guidance and now says Americans should wear masks in public. Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, said “like the United States, Canada is looking at the latest information and looking at recommendations right now.”

In a CBC News story, Dr. K.K. Cheng, Director of the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom, said “ if you’re out in public in a supermarket, or in a subway train or on the bus, I think it makes a lot of sense for everyone to wear a mask.”

“With public health officials looking at new guidelines on face masks, it only makes sense for the TTC to do the same and help find masks to protect workers,” said Carlos Santos. “Public transit workers have been right all along that we must do everything to protect people, including the choice to wear masks.”

ATU Local 113’s call for the TTC to supply PPE comes after the union advised bus operators to do what they can to ensure physical distancing on bus routes – limiting regular buses to 10 riders and articulated buses to 15 passengers.

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