April 1, 2020

Transportation Workers Defend
Their Rights and the Rights of All

Trucking Industry
Trucker Safety and Well-Being Must Be Ensured - Normand Chouinard

Airline Workers
Air Canada Flight Attendants Demand Safety Be Prioritized - Garnet Colly

Public Transit Workers
Toronto Workers Fight to Improve Health and Safety Protections for All
Transit Windsor Workers Reject Mayor's Decision to Suspend Bus
- Amalgamated Transit Union Local 616

Trucking Industry

Trucker Safety and Well-Being Must Be Ensured

On March 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the "temporary closure" of land, air and sea borders effective at midnight March 21 for all non-essential travellers. The announcement came after a telephone conversation between Trudeau and U.S. President Donald Trump that same morning, just a few hours before the U.S. administration announced it was also closing its borders.

"We are working very closely with the United States at this time to introduce specific rules that will keep both Canadians and Americans safe," Trudeau added. "Travel restrictions will not apply to commerce or trade," he noted.

"Our governments recognize that it is critical that we preserve supply chains between both countries," Trudeau continued. "These supply chains ensure that food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people on both sides of the border. [...] Trucking will not be affected by this new measure."

The Need to Ensure the Safety of All

For Prime Minister Trudeau to say in the same breath during his March 18 press conference that the Canadian and U.S. governments will "keep Canadians and Americans safe" while stating that "trucking won't be affected" is disingenuous.

While everyone recognizes the need during the present period to ensure the safety of all, the safety of the workers who are ensuring, 24/7, "that food, fuel and life-saving medicines reach people" by truck, is not being looked after.

Prime Minister Trudeau had nothing to say about the safety of truckers, nor about how their role as essential workers is going to be ensured during the pandemic. Truckers are very concerned about these matters and are holding public authorities and employers to account for guaranteeing that their right to safe working conditions during this difficult time is protected. As transportation falls mainly under federal jurisdiction, it is the responsibility of the Trudeau government to meet the needs of transportation workers. On that issue, François Laporte, National President of Teamsters Canada, which represents a large number of drivers employed by transport companies, had this to say in a press release:

"To date, the federal government has not consulted with the union on how to protect transportation workers. No federal safety guidelines have been made available to protect truck drivers, who need to travel to the United States and across the country to keep Canadians supplied."

"Every store in the country depends on deliveries from truck drivers. If we fail to protect truckers from the virus, our country's supply chain will collapse and we won't be able to get food and other essential goods to Canadians," he warned. "Our union stands ready to help in any way possible."[1]

The decision by certain U.S. states to close public rest areas and the possibility that truck stops operated by private interests may do likewise has met with strong disapproval from truckers across North America. Not only union organizations but also thousands of truckers who have a presence in the trucking world through digital platforms, have voiced strong opposition to these arbitrary decisions. Truckers are rightly claiming that as an essential service for securing the supply chain, strict measures must be taken to protect them under current conditions. Amongst other measures, special protective equipment must be provided to them and sanitation measures taken so that employees performing regular cleaning of rest areas are safe, along with measures that ensure that truckers can eat properly and that workers employed at these restaurants can work safely. Some truck drivers are even demanding that public authorities take responsibility to provide this and ensure that the owners of rest areas comply with health regulations.

Truckers are also demanding that their rest periods be respected, which is absolutely essential for them to be able to continue their work without risking their lives and the lives of others. This concern arose following the decision of the U.S. government to temporarily suspend the hours-of-service laws at the federal level that mandate how many hours truck drivers may work, a change that went into effect on March 13. Now, a similar exemption has gone into effect in Canada. On March 24, Michael DeJong, Director General of Transport Canada's Multimodal and Road Safety Programs, signed the Essential Freight Transport Exemption. It applies to "extra-provincial truck undertakings and their drivers, who are employed or otherwise engaged in the transport of essential supplies and equipment, in direct assistance to the emergency relief efforts during the response to COVID-19" in all provinces and territories and remains in effect until April 30.[2]

A number of proposals have come from truck drivers themselves, including that of rotating hours within the company, and that businesses take all the measures necessary so that drivers are not unnecessarily exhausted. Within the context of the current pandemic, certain sectors of the industry will be slowing down, so truck drivers from those sectors will be called on to lend a hand to the essential transport and distribution sectors, such as health care and agro-food, and fuel and other materials necessary for production.

Truck drivers are also demanding that measures be taken in reception and shipping areas in factories, warehouses, distribution centres, etc., to ensure social distancing norms. Many truck drivers are concerned that they may contract the virus while their trucks are being loaded or unloaded, or that they themselves might become vectors for its spread across North America. These measures are all the more important as truckers travel to areas of higher risk, where the danger of spreading the virus is even greater.

There has been much confusion and concern about whether or not Canadian truck drivers who contract COVID-19 in the United States will be protected by insurance companies. Crisis committees comprised of the transport industry and unions, along with government and transport ministry officials have reassured truckers that they will be covered. The Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) has confirmed what the public authorities have said. "With restrictions to non-essential travel beginning in the coming days, Canada's insurers want to be clear that commercial truckers will not lose their group out-of-country medical coverage due to recent travel restrictions," said Stephen Frank, President and CEO of CLHIA. Doubts about insurance coverage arose after several insurers sent memos indicating that due to the government's notice of travel restrictions, they would not be providing travel coverage for COVID-19. The uproar that this created, not only amongst truckers but also fleet managers and trucking and trucker associations, has resulted in truck drivers crossing the border now being covered for COVID-19, so long as they have no symptoms before crossing.

Truck drivers are aware that their job of securing the supply chain goes hand in hand with the need to take care of everyone working on the production chain. It is the entire industrial and non-industrial working class that produces all of the goods and services upon which the society depends who must be protected to ensure that the people can be supplied with what they need so that this pandemic crisis can be overcome for the benefit of all. Truck drivers will continue to work in that vein, by putting forward themselves what they need to be able to do just that.


1. Teamsters Canada website.

2. Canada's Commercial Vehicle Drivers Hours of Service Regulations state:

12 (1) No motor carrier shall request, require or allow a driver to drive and no driver shall drive after the driver has accumulated 13 hours of driving time in a day.

(2) No motor carrier shall request, require or allow a driver to drive and no driver shall drive after the driver has accumulated 14 hours of on-duty time in a day.

Mandatory Off-duty Time

13 (1) No motor carrier shall request, require or allow a driver to drive and no driver shall drive after the driver has accumulated 13 hours of driving time unless the driver takes at least 8 consecutive hours of off-duty time before driving again.

For details on the March 24 Essential Freight Transportation Exemption to the above regulations, click here.

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Airline Workers

Air Canada Flight Attendants Demand
Safety Be Prioritized

In its March 22 bulletin, the Air Canada component of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) demanded that the full gamut of personal protective equipment (PPE) be provided to its flight attendants.

The union acknowledges that after months of calls for increased personal protection equipment onboard, and courageous efforts of members who stood up for their rights, Air Canada is now going to provide one N95 respirator per crew member.

The bulletin states: "The Union demands that the employer provide our crews with the full gamut of PPE required to safely conduct their duties and, in doing so, take care of our customers by:

"- Providing the regulatory-required fit testing to ensure N95 respirators are correctly sized to our members, ensuring maximum protection; 

"- Establishing an opportunity for on-site training to assist employees with understanding the do's and don'ts of donning and removing this PPE;

"- Providing a clear explanation of when the N95 respirator provides maximum benefit."

The workers also demand that Air Canada provide all "additional universal precautions equipment that is crucial to full protection -- over and above what is contained in the UPK [Universal Precaution Kit] kits -- including additional eye visors and full-sleeve smocks which are used by other professionals when in close proximity to persons suspected of contagious disease."

The bulletin goes on to state: "The Union's position is that this PPE should remain a staple of our onboard personal protective equipment ALWAYS so that we never have to put ourselves at risk for weeks on end in the future. We must NEVER turn our backs on this hazard."

Discussing the issue of social distancing onboard the aircraft, the bulletin quotes a decision from Transport Canada about Air Canada's practice of requiring flight attendants to work in close proximity to passengers during the pandemic. The decision follows the investigation of multiple work refusals. It reads:

"Requiring Flight Attendants to come frequently into close proximity with passengers during the COVID-19 outbreak, in order to provide regular service, with no possibility of social distancing presents a serious threat to their health.

"Therefore, you are HEREBY DIRECTED, pursuant to paragraph 145(2)(a) of the Canada Labour Code, Part II, to alter the activity that constitutes the danger immediately."

As of March 31, CUPE Air Canada component President Wesley Lesosky told CBC that the workers still "don't have properly fitted N95 masks, we don't have properly fitted gloves and we don't have things such as disposable long-sleeve isolation gowns that should be made available to our crews." Speaking to the Huffington Post, Lesosky noted that the workers are in a "highly stressful situation because we're not trained in a pandemic. We are trained in dealing with someone who shows signs of the flu or how to perform primary first aid, but we're not trained on how to move through an isolation stage on a plane. We don't have a place to put people."

The CUPE Air Canada component raised a related problem in its bulletin dated March 23, indicating its concern that the On-Board Service Managers (OBSMs) and Mentors are still being placed on their aircrafts. These are staff hired by Air Canada to provide so-called support for the crew members but who actually interfere as they have no functional role onboard.

The bulletin says: "What support can they possibly offer that our highly skilled cabin crew cannot? Why would we want, at this time, to have them interacting with our customers? We should be focusing on the well-being of each other, limiting contact and practising safety first and always. Now is not the time to be augmenting crews, adding unneeded 'assistance' on board or at layover points. This is the time to remove the programs and move forward with what we do best, SAFETY. [...] As a practical reality there is no value to have OBSMs travelling throughout the system and offering support to our members currently facing massive job reductions, especially when they have no functional role onboard. We will continue to impress upon the Company in no uncertain terms why it makes sense to reconsider the OBSM Program under the circumstances."

An additional issue that now confronts Air Canada workers is the company's March 30 announcement that it will be laying off 15,200 unionized workers and 1,300 managers for April and May, citing flight cancellations caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Public Transit Workers

Toronto Workers Fight to Improve Health
and Safety Protections for All

In the early hours of March 12, about a dozen Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) workers collectively refused to work at a TTC streetcar facility over concerns about some work being done to deep clean the streetcars. The overnight work refusal at the Roncesvalles streetcar facility was investigated by the provincial Ministry of Labour, which gave the all-clear for employees to return to work. Carlos Santos, President of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 113, which represents 12,000 public transit workers in Toronto and York Region, said in a statement that the refusal was "based on maintaining reasonable precautions" to protect workers. "The work refusal allowed for stronger standards for workers' health and safety," he said.

On its website, ATU Local 113 details measures it secured to improve health and safety protections for all workers and riders.

"Since the threat of the coronavirus was known, ATU Local 113 has demanded that the TTC do everything it can to ensure a safe, clean and healthy work environment for all members. After weeks of persistent demands from ATU Local 113, the TTC agreed on March 18 to allow workers the choice of wearing protective masks on the job. This is an important measure ATU Local 113 secured to help members protect their health at work. Other safety measures include all-door boarding on TTC vehicles because it helps avoid overcrowding at entrances and provides safe distancing for TTC workers and riders. Fare collectors and CSAs [customer service agents] can remain in booths for as long as they wish for any health and safety concerns. Along with these protective measures, ATU Local 113 has secured important policy changes from the TTC, including 100 per cent pay if members must go into 14-day quarantine or self-isolation (assessed on a case-by-case basis), no medical notes required for sick days up to and including March 31, 2020, reassurance that all members will receive the standard 75 per cent sick pay if unwell, and increased workplace cleaning and disinfection processes where needed.

"As our country faces unprecedented measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, our members are showing up to work to ensure TTC riders -- including health care workers -- can get to their destinations safely. And behind the scenes, our maintenance members are working hard to keep the TTC system clean and safe, including vehicles, stations and other work areas."

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Transit Windsor Workers Reject Mayor's Decision
to Suspend Bus Service

On March 26, the Mayor of the City of Windsor, Drew Dilkens, announced that public transit services will be suspended as of the end of normal operation hours on March 29, as a measure to limit the spread of COVID-19. This in spite of the fact that in the City of Windsor's Pandemic Emergency Plan Transit Windsor bus service is listed as an essential service. The suspension will be in place until at least April 13. The day after the announcement was made, Windsor-Essex Medical Officer of Health Dr. Wajid Ahmed issued a media release indicating that the Windsor-Essex Health Unit "has not recommended the discontinuation of transit services. Under the right circumstances, such as employing appropriate environmental cleaning practices and managing the number and space of passengers, public transit can serve as an important means of transportation to access food, supplies, or go to work for essential workers who may not have a private vehicle or other options. Individuals who are high-risk for contracting COVID-19 such as seniors (65+) and individuals with underlying medical conditions should not take public transit and should try to arrange for delivery of supplies to their home."

Dilkens claimed that the transit union has prevented city workers from sanitizing buses and cited this as one of the major factors that influenced his decision to shut down public transit amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In an attempt to pit workers against one another, the Mayor claims the city wanted to use the 30 per cent of City of Windsor workers, represented by CUPE, who are currently at home and getting paid, but not working and says that Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 616 demanded that their members be used. "They said we have to hire more of their members or that we have to bring them in on overtime," Dilkens claimed. ATU Local 616 issued the press release below on March 27, speaking for themselves amid the anarchy being created, to clarify the matter. They indicate that this is not the case and that its workers have done their utmost to keep the service running safely for the public despite many challenges and that the matter is not one of pay.  


In response to the Mayor's statements, it is very clear that he does not know the facts surrounding the current operation of Transit Windsor. In the Armed Forces this is called reverse psychology (if he does not know, that means blaming others for their own mistakes), we will present the facts.

This pandemic has spread throughout the world at an unprecedented rate and has been a grave concern for all. As front line workers, all of our members are going above and beyond, along with nurses, doctors, retail workers and truck drivers putting ourselves in harms way for the greater good of all the communities around the world.

We do not know if the Mayor is aware that our members were not provided hand sanitizers for 3 weeks and when Transit Windsor finally provided them, they were expired. The members of ATU 616 were not provided with masks or disinfectant wipes which we have continually asked for. Management has continually given excuses as to why they cannot be provided instead of doing everything they can to get the basic essentials needed to protect us from harm.

Our members are scared, yet they have continued to come to work to provide the service this community so desperately needs. Some are even sending their children to live elsewhere for the time being or finding other living arrangements [so] as not to expose their loved ones to the dangers that they face on a daily basis during this outbreak. They come to work every day to do their due diligence and to do their job with pride in knowing that they are doing their part in helping on the front lines. The Union has approached Transit Windsor Management daily and so many emails have been sent to the Executive Director of Transit Windsor telling him what our members are willing to do for him and willing to do for the corporation. The Skilled Trades staff even agreed to take a pay cut to help in cleaning buses and our members have worked almost to the point of exhaustion to keep the public and the members of this Union safe and have continually given more than should be required of them.

Our members never questioned what we had to do, they were willing to do whatever it would take to make it work. We are unsure if the Mayor is aware of the incompetence of the Senior Manager of Fleet and Support Services and the Maintenance Manager at Transit Windsor. Both have continually undermined the efforts that have been organized to help with the efforts to keep everyone safe. He should talk to the corporation's Executive Director Pat Delmore, the City CAO Onorio Colucci or City Engineer Mark Winterton about how many times this Union has expressed a great deal of concern with the ineptitude of the maintenance management staff at Transit Windsor. This Union has never declined help. This Union Executive even on their own accord cleaned and sanitized every facility at Transit Windsor on their days off and without pay. This was done without question when management refused to step up and do their jobs to protect all of the employees.

All of this has come down to cost. When other governments are doing all they can to protect the public and their employees this corporation is only looking at ways to save money. The Transit Windsor Corporation and now the Mayor have continually used this pandemic as a cost saving tool. It is unethical and completely unacceptable to put the health and safety of the community at risk for the almighty dollar. The Mayor decided immediately to cut the service, however when we mentioned back door exit and entering for the driver and public safety he said he was not ready to implement that at this time, to which we had to force the issue and let him know that if it was not done, we would not have service on the road on Friday of last week [March 20].

As to the Mayor's comments that the buses were not cleaned up to his standards, we highly doubt besides a couple political photo opportunities, he has ever even stepped foot on a bus let alone rode one. Our buses have never been cleaner and have continually been sanitized over and over again to protect everyone who comes in.

To the Mayor and the members of this Union, we are continuing to be at work and continue to support the community in its transit needs as long as we possibly can. We will be anxiously awaiting by our phones for the call to continue the service needed to help those who require our services to get to their employment in order to help each and everyone through this crisis.

We apologize for the inconvenience to the public and our supporters, but you have to understand we were not part of the discussion to stop transit. We were told at 2:30 pm yesterday that the Mayor was going to announce at 3:00 pm that he was going to terminate the service at the end of the day Sunday for a 2-week period. Our position is that this is a terrible mistake that he has made, our position has not changed that we want to be out there helping in any way we can. At least the members of this Union and the public deserve the truth from the Mayor as to why this has transpired. Ben Hannaa from Windsor Car Spotters stepped up to help provide our members with masks.

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