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‘The hypocrisy stinks’: Transit union calls out London Transit over lax mask enforcement

In July 2020, the Middlesex London Health Unit made it mandatory for masks to be worn in higher-risk businesses, including in public transit. Matthew Trevithick / Global News

The president of London’s transit union is speaking out about a “double standard” when it comes to enforcing mask-wearing for drivers but not for transit riders.

On Tuesday, Mike Gauthier, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 741, released a statement criticizing London Transit Commission supervisors.

“Mask-less passengers are boarding buses with impunity and putting the workers and other passengers at risk of COVID-19 infection,” said Gauthier.

“Meanwhile, the LTC is excessively enforcing mask rules when it comes to transit workers. We have to be masked at all times, wear shields and glasses, and maintain six feet during rest and eating periods.”

“The hypocrisy stinks and the workers are angry.”

Read more: Middlesex-London Health Unit mandates masks for transit riders, some businesses

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In July 2020, the Middlesex London Health Unit made it mandatory for masks to be worn in higher-risk businesses, including in public transit.

In a statement, Kelly Paleczny, LTC general manager, said the transit commission implemented safety measures to protect all employees from COVID-19, like installing barriers, requiring drivers to wear masks and eye protection, and also providing hand sanitizers and disinfectant to clean their area between shifts.

“With respect to mask enforcement for riders, we have chosen not to have our operators enforce masking mandates in an effort to protect them from potential violence in the workplace incidents,” Paleczny said.

“Over the course of the pandemic, we have had a number of incidents where operators have attempted to enforce the mask mandate that has resulted in verbal and in some cases, physical assault on the operator or the vehicle.”

Read more: Mask rage caught on camera, passenger allegedly assaults LTC driver

Paleczny said the LTC reminds the public to wear a mask with onboard signage, as well as automated announcements.

But Gauthier wants to see more than just reminders, also calling out the city for not enforcing the rules.

“The City is turning a blind eye to Ontario Regulation 82/20, which requires the use of face masks on public transit. Transit workers feel that the city does not care about their safety when they are operating vehicles.”

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Under Ontario’s shutdown rules, Ontario Regulation 82/20 states that the person responsible for a business or organization that is open shall ensure that any person in the indoor area or in a vehicle that is operating as part of the business or organization wears a mask or face covering.

Read more: Free shuttle service in Middlesex County to help residents access vaccine, medical appointments

During Tuesday’s COVID-19 news briefing, Mayor Ed Holder and London medical officer of health Dr. Chris Mackie addressed the issue of people not wearing masks on public transit.

“Enforcement when it comes to passengers is not always as straightforward as it might appear,” Holder said.

“The issue of enforcing masks on buses is a really tough issue to handle, but the upside is we have been able to get so many transit drivers vaccinated over the last few weeks,” Mackie said.

Gauthier adds that neighbouring cities such as Windsor and Hamilton have put in ‘no mask, no ride’ policies that protect workers and passengers. Gauthier said Canada Labour Program sided with unionized drivers in Windsor who refused to drive passengers with no masks.

“Transit Windsor has a no exception policy and we want the same in London,” said Gauthier.

“What we want is a mask enforcement strategy and a no exception policy like in Windsor.”

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