OHS Canada Magazine

Halifax bus drivers’ union calls for service pause after mechanic gets COVID-19

Maintenance staff sent home while building received thorough cleaning


By Michael Tutton

HALIFAX — The union representing workers in Atlantic Canada’s largest transit system is calling for restrictions on who can use the service after a garage mechanic tested positive for COVID-19.

Ken Wilson, the president of local 508 of the Amalgamated Transit Union, confirmed Thursday that the garage of Halifax Transit was closed due to the infection, though bus and ferry service will continue.

Halifax Transit says in a release that maintenance staff on the Wednesday evening shift were sent home as the building was thoroughly cleaned, and those on the Thursday morning shift were advised not to report to work.

The agency says the provincial public health department has identified people who were in close contact with the garage worker, and will direct those people to spend two weeks in self-isolation.

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The transit service also says the bus and ferries can continue operating on a reduced basis “and staff who haven’t been contacted by Public Health can report to work at the direction of Halifax Transit.”

However, Wilson says the union wants the agency to hold a 24-hour pause on service so it can clean its buses and facilities.

“The first issue it to get the equipment off the road to do a clean from top to bottom, and it would give time to work out a protocol that only the essential persons are on the buses,” said Wilson.

Policy shift sought

He’s advocating for a shift in policy where the bus service is limited to retail, health and other essential workers.

Wilson estimated the service has 300 unionized drivers and 70 maintenance workers.

Elsewhere in the region, Newfoundland and Labrador has issued new COVID-19-related restrictions for provincial ferries.

Passengers are now limited to essential workers travelling to and from their workplaces, patients travelling for medical reasons, those travelling to purchase essential goods and supplies, and people transporting essential goods.

The number of trips for each ferry run are also being reduced.

Passengers must also remain in their vehicles during crossings to ensure social distancing.