TTC mismanagement to blame for overcrowding and service impacts

TORONTO, ONTARIO – Carlos Santos, President of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, released the following statement after TTC management appears to blame employee medical leaves and self-isolation for crowded TTC vehicles and reduced services.

“TTC management shouldn’t be pointing the finger at dedicated frontline public transit workers for complaints about crowded TTC vehicles and reduced services.

According to a TTC spokesperson, the absenteeism rate has increased from a typical six per cent to more than 20 per cent due to workers calling in sick or self-isolating because of recent travel history or possible exposure to the coronavirus. TTC management has not said how many of these cases are from vehicle operators compared to non-operational or management employees. The 20 per cent absenteeism rate coincides with a 70 per cent decline in ridership.

Transporting thousands of riders each day, Toronto’s public transit workers are among those at a high risk of coronavirus exposure. As of March 31, six TTC workers have tested positive for COVID-19, including the latest case with a TTC Subway fare collector. ATU Local 113 wishes all those with confirmed cases a speedy recovery and we will continue to demand strong health protections for Toronto’s public transit heroes.

Despite this serious health threat, an overwhelming majority of TTC frontline workers are on the job to get people, including healthcare professionals, to where they need to be.

Even Toronto Mayor John Tory himself, who had gone into self-isolation following international travel, has praised the commitment of TTC workers and the cooperation of the union in fighting this pandemic.

TTC workers who are absent during the coronavirus pandemic are being responsible by following the advice of public health professionals and political leaders, including the Prime Minister who also went into self-isolation because of potential exposure to coronavirus. The TTC’s Chief Safety Officer issued a notice last week that repeated the advisory from Toronto Public Health that ‘we are asking all staff and the public to watch for symptoms and stay home if sick.’

While the TTC attempts to link overcrowding and service impacts to employee absenteeism, union members have reported that many operators are sitting at divisions because their crews were cancelled, such as with the Express bus routes. Instead of being on the road to help with busy routes, TTC management has operators sitting at divisions. It’s time for the TTC to take responsibility for its own mismanagement and fix the problem.

ATU Local 113 members will continue to follow all public health guidelines, including staying at home when feeling unwell, self-isolating when needed and enforcing physical distancing. If members have any public health and safety concerns while on the job, they should do what is needed to follow public health guidelines and enforce physical distancing. ATU Local 113 will support members for enforcing physical distancing rules on the TTC system.”

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