‘The drivers are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicles to get members of the public where they need to go, but not at the risk of their own health and safety’
Workers’ union Unifor is calling on the British Columbia government to increase transit security resources to enforce COVID-19 mask requirements.
Previously, the B.C. Office of the Public Health Officer mandated that passengers must wear masks on public transit. Those who will reuse to comply or engage in abusive or belligerent behavior will be fined $230. However, Unifor said stricter enforcement of penalties are needed now in order for mask requirements to be taken seriously.
“Insufficient transit security and police presence has put drivers in the dangerous position of dealing with passengers who refuse to comply with public health regulations that require masks onboard public busses,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. “The drivers are responsible for the safe operation of the vehicles to get members of the public where they need to go but not at the risk of their own health and safety.”
Gavin McGarrigle, Unifor western regional director, noted that there have even been incidents where drivers have been in danger of physical harm.
“The masks are there to protect everyone onboard, both passengers and drivers, but there have been instances where transit workers have faced verbal confrontation or risk of physical assault,” said McGarrigle. “This cannot be tolerated. An increased and more visible security presence would help to address the threat posed by anti-maskers who choose public transit as a venue to protest health regulations.”
WorkSafeBC noted that every employer in the transportation sector must establish a mechanism for ensuring orders and guidance from the provincial health officer are communicated to passengers, including guidance around non-essential travel and travelling by public transportation if they have symptoms of COVID-19.
They must “ensure these policies are broadly understood, posted as needed online and at locations that will help passengers understand these obligations, and provided in languages that will be understood by passengers,” said WorkSafeBC.
If masks or other personal protective equipment are required by the employer’s safety plan, employers must ensure they are used appropriately and available for use by workers at the time of their shift.
In August, Unifor school bus driver members called on the Ontario government to implement standardized COVID-19 safety protocols to protect both themselves and the students on board.
Recently, the B.C. government revised measures under the Emergency Program Act (EPA) to align it with the provincial health officer’s (PHO) guidance that medical or non-medical masks that cover the nose and mouth must be worn in indoor public places.