Dozens of front-line TTC workers at two of the agency’s garages on Wednesday organized work stoppages because claims management is not doing enough to protect them from COVID-19.
The agency said 38 bus drivers from the TTC’s Wilson and Queensway divisions refused to travel.
Five Wilson employees refused to work. According to TTC spokesperson Stuart Green, a representative from the provincial Department of Labor assessed the situation Wednesday afternoon and was “convinced that the TTC had put in place protections and judged (there was ) no reason to refuse to work ”.
At the agency’s Queensway division, at least 33 drivers would not leave. The ministry was called to the site, but the situation had not yet been resolved at 8:30 p.m.
Green said the TTC was redeploying buses to mitigate the impact of stops, which he called “minimal.”
Carlos Santos, President of Local 113 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents most of the workers at TTC, said employees wanted the agency to distribute masks to bus drivers who continue to work during the pandemic .
As of Wednesday, 17 TTC employees tested positive for COVID-19. They include five bus drivers, one of whom worked at the Wilson facility. Three Wheel-Trans drivers, two metro operators and a tram driver were also infected.
The TTC has implemented policies to protect bus drivers, such as blocking vehicle fronts and forcing passengers to use only the rear doors. Management also welcomed union demands to let drivers wear masks at work.
“The TTC considers the health and safety of employees to be of paramount importance,” Green said in a statement.
But Santos said passengers with accessibility issues are still allowed to get on the front of the buses, putting them near the drivers. And employees who want to wear masks have to take them home. Santos said that even non-medical masks are difficult to find, given the high demand during the pandemic.
The TTC has a stock of masks which, as of Monday, included approximately 343,000 surgical masks and 31,000 high-end N95.
Green said the masks were distributed daily to employees who “had previously been identified as needing masks for their work”, such as Wheel-Trans drivers and maintenance crews exposed to potentially hazardous substances suspended in the air. air.
Green said the TTC “actively purchases equipment to make our own face covers for operators if they choose to wear them.”
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Santos said the union bought 100,000 disposable masks and distributed them to around 12,000 members. However, he estimated that because the masks cannot be remanufactured, the union will be exhausted in about a week.
“It is the employer who should provide (personal protective equipment) to workers,” said Santos.
This is not the first time that TTC workers have refused to work on COVID-19 issues. On March 11, employees of the Roncesvalles tramway briefly left work.
Santos said that on Wednesday only a handful of workers who were not on the frontline stopped working for safety reasons.