ATU Local 113 Continues Fight for Clean Air

A report released on Monday, January 6, 2020 by the Toronto Public Health department recognizes issues exist regarding air quality in the city’s subway system, including PM 2.5 contamination.

This new report confirms the problems regarding air quality contamination in the subway system are legitimate. ATU Local 113 has demanded that the TTC clean the dirty air in the subway system since a 2017 Health Canada study revealed that Toronto’s subway stations and trains had the highest levels of air pollution of Canada’s three major rapid transit system.

“The fact that the Toronto Public Health department is recommending short, as well as mid and long-term mitigation measures indicates there are obvious risks,” said Carlos Santos, ATU Local 113 President.

These concerns are shared by CUPE Local 2, which represents hundreds of additional TTC employees. In late 2019, charges were laid against the TTC under the Environmental Protection Act related to PM 2.5 contamination, resulting from ATU Local 113’s ongoing advocacy on this important workplace health issue.

Toronto Public Health has also confirmed in discussions earlier today that the report does not address exposures to people working in subway areas, including ATU Local 113 members, other unionized workers in the TTC Subway system, as well as others in the many shops and services.

“If the conditions in the subway require many kinds of mitigation for passengers, any reasonable person has to be deeply concerned about what this means for anyone who works there for their living. It is extremely disturbing that Toronto Public Health wasn’t directed to look at this issue, knowing that the risks are obviously far greater for employees,” said Santos.

ATU Local 113 is raising serious concerns that the TTC is not prioritizing employee health and safety. While the TTC tries to paint a rosy picture of the subway air quality, the fact is too many employees are exposed to PM 2.5 contamination.

Enough is enough.

ATU Local 113 will continue to demand that the TTC make workplace health and safety a priority – and allow workers to take appropriate measures to protect themselves from health risks.

Toronto Public Health has further indicated the report does not apply to anyone who may have an existing medical condition, instead recommending they speak to a healthcare professional.
“When the city’s own health department recommends that passengers seek independent medical advice before using our city’s transit system, there is a major problem that needs to be addressed immediately,” said Santos.