May 4, 2021
“Covid 19 is running rampant on Halifax Buses, and Halifax Transit isn’t doing near enough to protect the public,” says Ken Wilson, President and Business Agent of Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 508.
It is clear from the exposure reports that Covid 19 and its variants are widespread on Halifax Transit buses, yet Transit won’t implement reduced loads, in spite of being authorized to do so by Public Health.
Wilson says he was astonished to hear the Province’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Strang, tell reporters yesterday that his department gave Halifax Transit permission to go to reduced loading last week. “We have been asking for this since the third wave began, they have permission of public health to do it, it’s clearly in the best interest of the public and drivers, and still Transit won’t act,” says Wilson.
“Wilson points out that Transit buses are only cleaned once a day. “It’s not like a supermarket. None of the bus surfaces are cleaned during the day, the drivers aren’t permitted to enforce mask wearing, and there is no social distancing.”
While Transit has told drivers it will be reinstating “skip a seat,” Wilson points out that without reduced loads, this means that people will be “standing in the bus aisles, right next to seated passengers.”
Making the situation even worse, Transit has told the drivers of buses where there has been a Covid exposure that they don’t even have to get tested. “Transit thinks that the plexiglas protects the Driver from exposure, but its all the same air in an enclosed space.” He adds: “Our drivers are worried that they could be exposing passengers and their families to Covid 19, yet Halifax Transit is forcing them to take that risk. This is unsafe and contrary to everything that Government is trying to accomplish with this lockdown. It also disproportionately impacts the front line workers who can’t stay home, and who may not have access to a car to safely drive them to work.”
Wilson is calling on Government to step in and mandate restrictions that will protect the public on buses, just as they have done in all other aspects of public interactions: “Given the rate at which the variants are spreading, more has to be done. If Transit won’t do it voluntarily then Government should step in.”
Ken Wilson, ATU 508 PBA