Kenny Wilson, President of The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 508 says the exemption of Halifax transit from the social gathering and distancing rules is creating an unsafe situation for the public and the drivers.
“As a result of Halifax Transit being exempted from the social distancing order, we are seeing buses fully loaded with passengers forced to sit side by side, without any physical distancing at all,” says Wilson. “People will get sick. This level of bus loading will not flatten the curve”
The Union advocated for the suspension of fares and back door loading to ensure there is distancing between the passengers and the drivers. Both measures were adopted by the Employer. Other jurisdictions, including Moncton and Saint John, are doing more, limiting the number of people permitted on a bus at any one time and encouraging social distancing on buses.
The Union wants only essential workers to travel on the bus, and to limit the number of people allowed to be on the bus at any given time: “It may take people more time to get where they need to go, but at least they will get there in as safe a way as possible,” says Wilson “That is not happening now. If a health care worker or grocery store worker gets the virus on the bus, they could pass it on to hundreds or thousands of other people.” The Union believes there should be a 24 hour pause in service while these issues are worked out.
“On the news last night, the premier said that he expected people to social distance on buses. I am telling him ‘Mr. Premier, this is not happening,’” Wilson says.
The Amalgamated Transit Union local 508 represents over 900 Bus and Ferry Workers. In 2012 the Union was on strike for 6 weeks, during which time all riders, essential or otherwise, had to find other ways to work. The Union’s request for arbitration to end the strike on the basis they were essential to the economy and health of Nova Scotians was rejected by HRM City Council.