Union calls for mass testing of TTC workers following outbreak at Queensway garage
The union representing TTC workers is calling for mass testing following the news that four employees working out of the Queensway Garage have tested positive for COVID-19 and four other individuals now have symptoms.
Carlos Santos, the president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113 and the Canadian president of the ATU, John Di Nino, are calling on Toronto Public Health to send a mobile health unit to the Queensway division to test every worker who came in contact with any of the infected individuals.
"We need serious and decisive action to stop this outbreak from becoming a lethal cluster and spreading any further," Santos said in a statement. "That means getting Toronto Public Health to Queensway immediately to start mass testing."
President Carlos Santos makes serious demands to contain potential outbreak at Queensway garage. Click the link to learn more.https://t.co/SIPgEL4VH2— ATU Local 113 (@ATUlocal113) April 18, 2020
According to Santos, a full-blown outbreak at another TTC maintenance facility was avoided by sending all the workers home as a precautionary measure. But when the first positive COVID-19 case occurred at Queensway earlier this week, workers on that shift were not sent home.
In light of this, Santos has set a list of demands "to contain the outbreak and meet the health needs of each and every ATU member."
First, he says all workers on all shifts need to self-isolate with 100 per cent pay for 14 days or until they test negative. He says workers should also be given priority testing and be tested by a special mobile public health staff.
If public health does not have the capacity to test each worker, Santos says letters should be sent to union members so they can get priority testing on their own.
Finally, Santos says there must be an immediate deep cleaning of Queensway facilities and vehicles, "including but not limited to all maintenance and transportation amenities such as tools, touchpoints, counters and so on."
According to the CBC, TTC communications adviser Hayley Waldman has said that the three individuals who tested positive for the virus are at home in self-isolation and have been asked to go for testing, though it's unclear why the TTC only mentions three workers who've contracted the illness when the union cites four.
"Out of an abundance of caution, we have made a joint decision with Toronto Public Health to have all employees on the same shift stay home while we wait for test results," Waldman said.
"As an extra precaution, we have already deep-cleaned the entire maintenance area of the Queensway facility and continue to reinforce the importance of self-monitoring for symptoms and following all recommendations set out by Toronto Public Health."
Earlier this week, more than 30 TTC bus drivers temporarily refused to return to work at the Queensway Division while demanding more personal protective equipment (PPE).
On Friday, TTC spokesperson Stuart Green said on Twitter that the transit agency had received its first shipment of 15,000 multi-use disposable polypropylene masks to be distributed to bus divisions now as an interim measure while they manufacture and distribute reusable cloth masks over the next two to three weeks.
He said 10,000 more would be arriving Monday, with 75,000 more coming in over the next three weeks.
"This weekend, bus operators will receive two masks each to start along with their gloves, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes," Green wrote. "All operators will be supplied with masks in a phased approach and are optional to wear."
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