The union representing 11,000 TTC workers says employees should have the right to wear protective masks at work amid concerns about the subway’s air quality.
Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113 released a video on Tuesday demanding action to protect subway workers. The two-minute video shows a series of images with a woman’s voice narrating background information and why action is necessary.
“We think its time for the TTC to say yes: to breathing clean air, to protection from disease, to a safe work environment — and yes, to the choice to wear protective equipment like masks,” states the video.
The union’s website says the video is aimed at helping Torontonians “understand the significant health risks subway workers are exposed to on a daily basis — sometimes up to 12 hours a day.”
“Enough is enough. For far too long, the TTC has ignored its workforce’s longstanding concerns about subway air pollution.”
A university study released in late April concluded the air quality of the subway system might be 10 times worse than the pollution on a Toronto street. It even suggested the quality might be as bad as that of Beijing, China — a city known for consistently high pollution levels.
A number of subway workers previously faced “work refusal” situations after being told they were not allowed to wear protective masks while on the job.
The TTC released a statement following the incidents, stating the Ministry of Labour ruled the air in the subway was “not likely to endanger” and that conditions didn’t warrant employees wearing masks.
The union says it feels differently and will continue to push for action.
“We’re not suggesting that somehow it’s extremely dangerous,” ATU Local 113 Secretary-Treasurer Kevin Morton told Global News.
“What we’re saying is the exposure level for a worker is 800-1000 times more than somebody who goes in and does a quick trip now and again.”
A meeting is scheduled between the union and the transit agency on May 23.