The Toronto Transit Commission has fired 354 workers who did not comply with the transit agency’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy.
Stuart Green, spokesperson for the TTC, said in a statement Monday that the number of workers who lost their jobs represents two per cent of the transit agency’s workforce and all 354 have not been working since Nov. 21. Before the firings, the TTC had more than 15,000 workers.
Service changes made in November took the terminations into account and there will be no “further impact” on service, Green said.
“It is commonly accepted by experts that the best way out of the pandemic and the best way to keep employees safe in the workplace is to have everyone vaccinated,” Green said.
“Obviously our hope was that everyone would agree with every credible expert and voluntarily comply with the policy. It’s truly unfortunate a very small number of people did not.”
Green said the TTC notified workers about the policy well in advance of its Dec. 31 deadline for vaccinations. The transit agency is now recruiting, hiring and training new operators, he added.
Marvin Alfred, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113, which represents TTC workers, called the firings “wrong and unjust,” saying the firings were due to a “confrontational attitude” on the part of TTC management, lack of consultation with the union and “management overreach.”
Alfred said in a statement on Monday that the vaccination policy and firings are currently before a labour arbitrator.
The transit agency could provide alternatives to mandatory vaccination, such as regular COVID-19 testing, he said.
“The TTC is already facing a labour shortage, which will likely worsen over the next several weeks,” Alfred said.
“Deciding to terminate transit workers has resulted in TTC service cuts, which hurts our riders, many of whom are frontline or low wage workers who rely on the TTC to get to work. Reduced service leads to overcrowding on TTC vehicles, which presents a greater risk to public health than a masked, regularly tested, unvaccinated operator.”
Alfred said the TTC needs as many vehicles on the road as possible to ensure there is physical distancing as the Omicron variant continues to spread.