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Some TTC bus drivers refuse shifts linked to COVID-19 safety concerns


April 16, 2020
By The Canadian Press

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A Toronto Transit Commission streetcar rolls down King Street. Photo: Todd Humber

The Toronto Transit Commission said 38 of its bus drivers refused to work on Wednesday over safety concerns linked to COVID-19.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said in an email that 33 drivers initiated work refusals Wednesday evening.

He said the Ontario Ministry of Labour is reviewing what happened to determine if their actions were justified.

The TTC noted that earlier Wednesday five other drivers also refused work on the same grounds.

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Earlier refusal not warranted

Green said in that case the provincial inspector ruled the circumstances reported did not meet the conditions of a work refusal under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

He said the inspector further determined that the TTC has measures and procedures in place for preventing hazards associated with COVID-19.

He said the inspector cited Plexiglas barricade bus operators can close, the blocking off of seats immediately behind the operator, use of rear-door boarding and a collapsible barricade — all of which provide the operator with physical distancing.

PPE available to drivers

Green said the inspector also cited protective equipment such as disposable gloves, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer available to operators.

TTC spokesman Kadeem Griffiths said Thursday morning that the union representing transit workers has been asking for face masks to be made available for all staff.

He said Wheel-Trans staff — who transport people with disabilities — are currently the only workers who are given face masks by the TTC because of their close proximity with passengers.

Other TTC staff are allowed to wear face masks but aren’t provided with them, although Griffiths said efforts are underway to obtain washable and reusable face masks for the entire workforce.