Union and City push to get workers vaccinated as seventh COVID case confirmed at Barrie Transit

Union says bus drivers are frontline workers

“Incredibly frustrated and tired of COVID, and they’re scared,” said Cory Trew, president and business agent for the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1775 in Barrie.

Trew told Barrie 360 that’s how drivers and maintenance workers ATU represents are feeling as the union confirmed a seventh case of COVID-19 among Barrie Transit staff.

Six of the cases are among drivers and the other is an infected supervisor. All of them are self-isolating.

Trew said the union wants its workers to be moved up the pecking order when it comes to being a priority to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and he acknowledged the city has been advocating on their behalf.

“They are frontline workers, and this has been our contention all along,” said Trew.

A workplace outbreak was declared by the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit on Apr. 15 because a link was found between two of the confirmed cases.

So far, the new cases have not been linked to the previous ones.

“My people are on the frontlines with the public every day. To say the COVID comes from outside the workplace can be a little misleading,” said Trew.

“It could be a passenger or a couple of passengers that have travelled on more than one bus in a day or two. The drivers change. It rotates pretty constantly.”

Trew said he wants to remind everyone that the bus drivers are parents, children, husbands and wives.

“They are people that suffer from the same frustrations, concerns and fears that everybody else is having.”

All buses are thoroughly cleaned and sanitized after service each day and receive additional mid-day sanitization to further improve safety measures.

Barrie Transit will continue to operate as normal and maintain current service levels.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Barrie Transit has taken extra precautions to keep employees and riders safe and continues to follow the direction of the Health Unit. These measures include:

  • plexiglass shield around the driver
  • at least six feet of space between the driver and the first seat on the bus
  • enhanced cleaning and disinfecting of vehicles
  • requirement for masks in public areas
  • hand sanitizers on all vehicles
  • capacity limitations to support physical distancing
  • active screening of all employees completed on a daily basis
  • protocols in place that eliminates the requirement for physical contact between drivers and riders

Barrie Transit staff wear a mask or face covering when working in public areas indoor public spaces unless the staff member is within or behind a physical barrier or is in an area of the premises that is not designated for public access. The operators (drivers) do not have to wear masks as they are separated from the public by plexiglass shields installed on buses. They do need to wear masks if they exit the driver seat/plexiglass area to secure a wheelchair/mobility device or enter the public area of the vehicle.