Toronto transit union to support workers wearing face masks as coronavirus spreads

Mar 10 2020, 10:43 am

A union representing thousands of transit workers said they will support workers who want to wear face masks to protect themselves amid the coronavirus outbreak.

ATU Local 113 — a union representing nearly 12,000 public transit workers — released a statement on March 6 saying union President Carlos Santos is calling on the TTC to allow workers to protect themselves by wearing the face masks to work.

“The TTC should focus less on public perception and more on public health,” the statement said. “Transit workers have the right to protect their health in the same way countless TTC riders do by wearing masks on subways, streetcars, and buses.”

The ATU Local 113 said they will back members “110%” if they need to protect themselves by wearing face masks.

“Until COVID-19 is contained, the TTC and public health officials need to do everything they can to protect TTC workers and riders,” Santos said in a statement on Friday.

While face masks have become a popular item to buy during the outbreak, Toronto Public Health has said the best way to prevent individuals from contracting the disease is by washing hands, avoid touching of the face, avoiding close contact with people who are ill, covering a cough or sneeze, and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.

Stuart Green, TTC spokesperson, told Daily Hive that the transit agency’s CEO Rick Leary and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Eileen De Villa, met with the heads of four TTC unions to discuss the matter and re-state the position that masks are ineffective for healthy individuals.

Green emphasized that Toronto Public Health said face masks are unnecessary and “potentially put healthy individuals at greater risk because of increased face touching.”

He also mentioned when transit operators raised their concerns with the TTC , they were educated on the public health position and provided additional workplace health and safety resources, like disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer

“That approach has proven successful and effective in addressing any concerns they have,” Green said.

After a man with coronavirus used the TTC and GO buses, public transit has become an area of concern for the spread of coronavirus.

Both the TTC and Metrolinx are following extra precautions to keep public transit as clean as possible.

In the next weeks, GO stations and buses should all be fully installed with hand-sanitizers.

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