Union calls for workers to get COVID-19 vaccine after Brantford Transit outbreak
'Workers are scared for themselves and their families,' says ATU president John Di Nino
The union representing transit staff in Brantford says its members are "scared for themselves and their families" following a COVID-19 outbreak, and it's calling for the workers to be prioritized for vaccines.
An outbreak was declared at the Brantford Transit terminal on April 16 after four staff members tested positive for the virus.
Five cases have since been linked to the outbreak, workplace data on the Brant County Health Unit (BCHU)'s website showed Monday.
Public health officials said on Friday that transit users would be at a low risk of contracting the virus from the outbreaks, adding the transit provider has been following proper cleaning protocols.
The terminal remains open, with approval from BCHU, the city says.
Any riders who visited it between April 6 and 12 and are concerned about possible exposure should contact the Brant Community Healthcare System to arrange testing.
The outbreak follows months of efforts by rank-and-file members of ATU Local 685 to push Brantford Transit to demand officials prioritize them for shots, said ATU Canada national president John Di Nino in a media release.
"An outbreak such as this reminds us of the dangers of the workplace of frontline workers like transit operators and the need to get them prioritized for the vaccine immediately."
The union and its members have received little response, he said. Meanwhile, their level of concern continues to rise.
"Quite frankly, our workers are scared for themselves and their families," said Di Nino.
"Elected officials have repeatedly spoken about how much they appreciate the work we do. Well, it is time to put their money where their mouth is and give our members priority access to the vaccine."
The Brant County Health Unit is following provincial guidelines for the COVID-19 vaccination rollout, says spokesperson Ryan Spiteri.
As people who can't work from home, transit staff are part of the second group that will get their shots.
That means they will get vaccinated after "all reasonable efforts have been made to offer a first dose" to those in the first group, which includes school employees, first responders for emergencies and farm workers, said Spiteri.
If the province changes prioritization to bump up transit staff, the health unit will respond, he said.
Brantford Transit is currently cleaning each of its vehicles with disinfectant each night. Touch points such as fare collection machines and handrails are also being cleaned regularly, the city says.