Bus drivers also deserve a place to go.
That’s the message from Canada’s largest transportation union, after the Ontario government left public transportation employees out of a new bill that gave other workers in the province the right to use restrooms in public areas. companies they serve.
The provision on the right to toilets was included in the Workers’ Labor Act, a set of labor reforms that the government of Prime Minister Doug Ford introduced in Queen’s Park on Monday. The law would ensure that truck drivers, couriers, mail carriers, and service delivery workers like Uber Eats can access restrooms at the commercial establishments where they pick up or deliver.
But there is no provision allowing transportation operators to use company facilities along their routes, an omission that Amalgamated Transit Union Canada calls “a slap in the face.”
“There is no reason why transit workers should be left out of this legislation,” ATU Canada President John Di Nino said in a press release last week. “Access to toilets is a health and safety problem for everyone in the transport sector.”
The union has about 34,000 members across Canada.
According to ATU, the lack of easy access to restrooms was a long-standing problem even before many restaurants and coffee shops closed their facilities to the public during the pandemic.
The union says drivers manage by avoiding drinking water at work and are sometimes forced to relieve themselves in bottles or on the street, or even get dirty. Lack of access to restrooms can be especially difficult for pregnant and older operators, as well as drivers with medical conditions, the union says.
Angie Clark, a TTC bus driver, is on the ATU Local 113 women’s committee, which represents some 12,000 TTC workers. She says that since COVID-19 struck, many female employees have complained about the lack of access to toilets on their routes.
“Since the pandemic it has been terrible,” he said.
Clark said the problem affects all drivers, but “it is particularly difficult for women because obviously we have problems that men do not have,” such as menstruation. He said not having quick access to toilets is causing health problems for transit workers, including bladder infections.
Some TTC bus routes can take an hour to drive each way, which means that an operator may have to wait two hours before being able to return to a station and access the facility.
Beth Kielty, a veteran TTC driver, recalled a harrowing episode before the pandemic when she tried three different businesses along her route in northern Etobicoke, but none of them allowed her to use their bathroom. He had to rush back to Kipling station on his bus. She said she was crying.
“I almost peed my pants. I know of other (drivers) who have literally had their period and bled out of their pants because they couldn’t use the bathroom,” he said in an interview.
Kielty said politicians have an obligation to ensure that transit workers who have kept cities moving through COVID-19 have access to restrooms at work.
“They work in an office, they can go to the bathroom whenever they want. We can’t, ”he said.
The provincial government said Tuesday that it saw no reason to include transit workers in its legislation.
Harry Godfrey, press secretary to Labor Minister Monte McNaughton, said in an email that access to restrooms was the top health and safety request the province received from app-based delivery workers during inquiries about recovery from the pandemic, which is why the minister “took urgent measures.” action to meet this essential need. ”
“Transit employees, on the other hand, generally have predictable routes and scheduled break times,” Godfrey said.
Ontario’s New Democrats support the ATU push. “The right to use restrooms must include all workers, that means including transit workers,” NDP leader Andrea Horwath said in a tweet on Thursday.
TTC spokesman Stuart Green said the agency would not comment on the provincial legislation, but “we consider the health and well-being of our operators and customers our primary concern.”
He said operators have access to restrooms at TTC locations like subway stations, and the agency has “excellent relationships” with chain restaurants and some smaller businesses that allow transit drivers access to their facilities.