ATU 583 – COVID, a Year Later – Blog

It has been just over a year since COVID-19 erupted into our lives. A pandemic no one was prepared for. It has changed our lives immeasurably.

What started as an illness far and away was soon spreading here at home and with that spread, an immediate and lasting effect on our day to day lives.

We’ve all lived through the more widespread results. The shortages at grocery stores, the inability to see our loved ones. But what is unique to our Members was the urgent need to adapt to keep Calgary running. To keep transporting those still using Transit, to keep the fleet clean and hygienic to a new standard. All of this under the consistent duress of contracting out and impending layoffs.

What is also unique is the fight to have these clearly imperative operations doable in a safe manner for the people performing them. We all watched as retail workers (rightfully) had barriers/sanitizer dispensers installed and limits imposed, swiftly. What many perhaps are not aware of is that Local 583 had to fight to have rear door loading of passengers. We had to step in and procure sanitizer for our Members. The City simply was not prepared and not moving to make sure our Members were safe. The Calgary Emergency Management Agency (CEMA) did not recognize us as qualifying for any enhanced protections what so ever. In fact, some efforts the Employer may have wanted to enhance were quashed by CEMA. Executive Board Members, Stewards and Staff worked to make sanitizer kits available to Operators immediately. This was to ensure their work stations could be wiped down throughout the day and their hands could stay clean. If we had not acted, our Members would have gone without. The human beings keeping this city moving; by getting people who were unable to work from home to work, to doctors’ appointments, to wherever they needed to be – would have gone without.

We are immensely proud of our Members and the way you all have continued to do your jobs with kindness and dignity. Despite layoffs. Despite contracting out. Despite a City Council that refuses to acknowledge the things you’ve done during this pandemic. A time of uncertainty and stress for everyone. With ever changing rules and regulations. With uncertainty swirling.

Masks also became imperative in the months after the pandemic started. By August 2020 there was a bylaw in place requiring masks. Again ATU 583 provided for our Members after the City showed disinterest in providing them consistently themselves, despite telling the public they wanted our Operators wearing them as role models. Even behind barriers – which the bylaw exempts.

The initial poly curtain barriers were another issue all together. A silver lining in all this is that a quality barrier was designed internally and installed in pretty much every vehicle by the end of January 2021. Although the Community Shuttle buses were a priority due to the seating configuration of the work station, there were some structural issues that needed to be addressed. We continue to monitor and address those issues.

Now we are in the midst of a vaccine rollout. Canada is far behind the likes of the United States in terms of numbers vaccinated. Though, of course we have far fewer people. The determination at the time of posting is that anyone who wants to be vaccinated should be by September 2021 although the Provincial Government has refused to recognize us as at-risk front-line workers.

For those of us wanting more normalcy, September still feels like a long way away. Summer is fast approaching and the ability to see family and friends is something we are all missing. Warmer weather certainly means we can gather outdoors within restrictions and that will be a comfort to many. Especially those feeling isolated during this last year. Many have had to quarantine alone. Many live alone and without visiting being a possibility they’ve lost their in-person interactions. Mental health has taken a huge hit across the globe as a result. As a reminder we have a very good post on EFAP (the Employee Family Assistance Program) HERE for anyone needing someone to talk to or resources for family.

While Covid remains a constant in our daily lives we want to take this opportunity to remind our Members that your safety comes first, to us, always. If you have a concern please reach out to us. We are available by phone or email. Or if you have questions you can also use Telegram.

We are wishing you all a safe remainder of 2021.

COPE #397

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