Transit union says mask policy amounts to double standard, hypocrisy

LONDON, ONT. — The union representing London Transit Commission employees is calling out the LTC for what it says is a double standard.

In a news release Tuesday, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 741 president Mike Gauthier said, “mask-less passengers are boarding buses with impunity and putting the workers and other passengers at risk of COVID-19 infection.”

He went on to say that the LTC is “excessively” enforcing mask rules for transit workers, “The hypocrisy stings and workers are angry.”

Speaking with CTV News London, Gauthier said that bus operators are being disciplined on a daily basis for what he considers “minor mask transgressions.”

“If they’re caught with their mask down like this for a minute, right, and someone calls in and reports them. What about the guy that rides the bus or the lady that rides the bus without their mask? No enforcement again. I mean it’s said that me wearing my mask is protecting you from me. But when they’re not wearing their mask, who’s protecting me being the operator?”

Some passengers CTV News London spoke with said they often see people riding the bus who are not wearing a mask, or wearing the mask improperly.

Don Murray said it makes him uncomfortable, “‘Cause it’s very close quarters. They’re walking by you very closely. They’re breathing on you. So yeah, it makes me very uncomfortable.”

Passenger Kim Porter said she spots maskless passengers every other time she rides a bus, and she doesn’t understand why.

“I don’t know if they have an exemption. I don’t know if they just can’t be bothered. I don’t know if they think it’s all a conspiracy. I don’t know if they’re sick.”

LTC Manager Kelly Paleczny was not available for an interview Tuesday, but she did provide a statement saying that the LTC has chosen not to have operators enforce the mask mandate, citing the potential for violence in the workplace.

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

The statement also points out the LTC has implemented safety measures for operators, including “the installation of barriers on buses and the requirement for them to wear masks at all times while on the bus, as well as eye protection when they are required to be out from behind the barrier.”

The union said it would like the LTC to implement a “no mask, no ride” policy, such as that in neighbouring cities of Windsor and Hamilton.

Murray said he’s not convinced such a policy would be enforceable on London buses.

“I understand why they’re upset, but the fact is what are the going to do? How can they enforce it? And they’re not about to put security guards on the buses like they do in Toronto, so…”

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