TTC strike: Drivers face suspension unless they get vaccinations

Image copyright QMI Agency Image caption The Court of Appeal determined unions have no legal recourse against TTC decisions

TTC drivers, bus dispatchers and logistics workers are set to be suspended unless they sign up to receive vaccination shots.

The court-ordered suspension affects 887 of the 3,500 union members, after the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) successfully argued that contracts require workers to carry out daily activities that put them at risk.

The labour dispute centres on the risk to the public of unsafe transit drivers.

The TTC has long struggled with winter weather and has often asked its drivers and bus dispatchers to drive “under stress” over long hours in icy conditions.

To keep the system safe, the TTC has been offering vaccinations to all staff, including bus dispatchers and logistics workers, which is directly related to the nature of their jobs.

In a court document filed with the Ontario Court of Appeal, the TTC said the courts cannot establish exceptions to contracts.

Criminal charges?

The court has already given staff the day off tomorrow but has ordered that hundreds face immediate suspension if they fail to sign up to receive their vaccinations.

Workers who refuse to sign up to get the vaccines could be fined, while some may face criminal charges if their absence causes public harm.

While the TTC is launching a campaign against non-compliance, it is hoping that these initiatives will compel employees to comply with the new rules.

Image copyright QMI Agency Image caption The dispute could delay planned Winter Safety Week action (in green), while all TTC workers are eligible for vaccinations

Currently, only 120 of the total 3,500 employees have taken the vaccine, and as many as 600 should be vaccinated by Friday.

TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the TTC will “reevaluate” the situation and will “take full steps necessary to ensure the safety of our customers”.

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Nearly 200 ticket inspectors are also eligible for the vaccine and could be suspended if they do not get it.

Driver vaccinated?

Meanwhile, union members who do not feel the new rules will be good for them are petitioning the court in an attempt to stop their colleagues from being suspended.

A petition, directed to Ontario Superior Court Justice Ralph Rolleston, states: “We need workers who can keep our customers safe, not those who are simply responsible for pushing snow around and cleaning up after irresponsible passengers.”

The union argues that many drivers have health conditions and serious side effects from the vaccine, which could put them out of work and increase health costs.

The union insists that the new rules “unfairly restrict or prevent” transport workers from exercising their labour rights.

A number of union workers have told BBC Urdu that TTC bus drivers whose health is affected by the vaccine process have already given up their personal and corporate health coverage.

Image copyright QMI Agency Image caption A union official said workers who do not have sufficient health coverage are losing it in favour of work

One driver, Fahim, a 36-year-old father of one, who asks to be referred to by his first name only, said he had health insurance through his union before the mandate was introduced and was offered an alternative plan.

He turned it down, preferring the TTC’s unique health coverage.

“It is important for me to not have to visit a doctor because that can cost me as much as eight times the cost of the shot,” he said.

“So if I lose my coverage I will have to continue to travel to Toronto for work, which is dangerous.”

The union would also like to see workers not exempted from the vaccination requirements but are not sure that all services will be affected.

Whether the future will be financially better for those on the union payroll depends on whether Mr Green’s plan to cut down non-essential travel passes is successful.

“We want to cut down on unnecessary travel expenses and we will definitely wait and see what the results are when we see who is working and who is not,” he said.

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