My latest for NOW Toronto: Coronavirus: Strike ups pressure on TTC to protect drivers
A simmering dispute between TTC management and the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 boiled over when a small number of drivers at two divisions refused work on health and safety grounds. The core of the dispute is the difference between each party’s idea of what protection is “needed”, and the union’s claim that TTC has been slow and inconsistent in provision of safety gear. That is an issue that extends beyond the Covid pandemic, but the breadth of potential exposure in this case is much greater than environmental concerns in some work locations.
The problem also affects maintenance workers who, by the nature of their jobs, may have difficulty maintaining the 2 metre separation. Most of the public discussion has been about drivers, but the maintenance workers are just as important because without them vehicles and drivers never get out of the garage, and track and signals just don’t get fixed.
Update: After the article went online, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green (@TTCStuart) tweeted:
1/3 We have received the first shipment of multi-use disposable polypropylene masks – washable up to three times. We have 15,000 now with another 10,000 arriving Monday. Another 75,000 of these masks will be coming over the next three weeks.
2/3 These masks are being distributed to bus divisions now and are intended as an interim measure while we manufacture and distribute reusable cloth masks over the next two to three weeks. That work is already underway.
3/3 This weekend, bus operators will receive two masks each to start along with their gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. All operators will be supplied with masks in a phased approach and are optional to wear.
The intent is to roll out this program first at the bus divisions because drivers there have the greatest potential exposure to the public, then to the streetcar divisions.