April 21, 2020

Toronto—The Canadian President of the Amalgamated Transit Union is calling on London Transit to be transparent about how it screens paratransit clients during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We have been getting a lot of inquiries questioning whether the London Transit Commission has a screening protocol for specialized transit. We have tried to find out through social media and we have phoned their offices to get an answer. We called the number on the website and the staff did not know if there is a policy or not, which is not a reassuring sign. In St. Thomas, for example, only essential trips for banking, grocery or healthcare are currently being offered, which is in line with public health guidelines. We are hearing that clients are going from apartment to apartment by London paratransit and that is a fundamental health risk to the bus operators and passengers who use the same buses.” said President John Di Nino.

Paratransit is a vital service but social distancing is a challenge on paratransit trips and the Union is calling for trips to be limited to only essential locations for the time being.  

 “We recently held a national town hall with our members to discuss how the pandemic is affecting paratransit operators. All of our members in other cities told us that their dispatch screens for essential trips only,” Di Nino continued. “So what is London’s policy on paratransit screening? Are they limiting to essential trips or is the city lagging behind the best practices of cities like Calgary, Cornwall, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton, Brantford and St. Thomas. We would like to see or hear what their client screening policy is and when they put it in place."

The Amalgamated Transit Union Canada has been hosting weekly town halls during the pandemic in order to understand all workers’ concerns and share information with all members across the country in order to get ahead of the situation and prevent the spread. They recently held a town hall dedicated to the best practices for paratransit operators, clients and communities.

Di Nino concluded by saying “Paratransit operators are mission-driven people. They love serving their clients and supporting their mobility needs. They want their buses full again. But operators have to secure mobility devices and that means close contact with passengers. There is no option for rear-door boarding. There are no driver shields for the operator compartments. Paratransit buses have limited space or are simply not large enough to maintain physical distance of six feet, so client screening is absolutely necessary until the state of emergency is over and we can all get back on buses like we used to.”



John Di Nino

ATU Canada President