Union president says exemption of Halifax Transit from new orders creating unsafe situation

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WATCH: The president of the union says drivers are facing daily risks that need to be addressed. He is calling for a 'pause' in service to develop a new safety strategy with government. The municipality says COVID-19 safety precautions are evolving – Mar 25, 2020

President of The Amalgamated Transit Union, Kenny Wilson, says the exemption of Halifax Transit from 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 in a statement released on Tuesday.

“People will get sick. This level of bus loading will not flatten the curve,” he added.

READ MORE: Halifax Transit waives fares to maintain social distancing during COVID-19

The Halifax Regional Municipality has shut down its parks, beaches, playgrounds, sports fields and trails after the provincial government declared a state of emergency on Sunday due to overcrowding at parks and beaches.

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But HRM said “municipal staff are still determining service level adjustments related to a provincial state of emergency, including Halifax Transit, and will issue announcements as decisions are confirmed.”

As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Nova Scotia, residents and businesses are being advised that failure to adhere to self-isolation and social distancing orders enforced by the province could result in fines.

Those tickets can be $1,000 for each day an individual breaches the orders and $7,500 for business and corporations.

READ MORE: ‘Not the time to be a hero’: Halifax mayor cancels council meeting over COVID-19

But the union says Halifax is not doing enough to limit the number of people permitted on a bus at any one time.

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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.

“The premier said that he expected people to social distance on buses. I am telling him ‘Mr. Premier, this is not happening,’” Wilson says.

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