Provincial and municipal governments must ensure rest stops and other businesses allow washroom access to truckers, couriers and other commercial drivers during the COVID-19 pandemic, says the United Steelworkers (USW) union, which represents thousands of transportation workers across Canada.
"Provinces and municipalities should be mandating businesses to accommodate these drivers. At this time, these drivers are essential workers, so they should be treated accordingly," said Steven Hadden, President of USW Local 1976, which represents nearly 2,000 couriers and other commercial drivers across the country. Several other USW locals in Canada also represent transportation workers.
Commercial drivers across the country have become increasingly concerned and put at risk as rest stops and businesses have closed, while many businesses that remain open have been denying bathroom access to drivers.
"Drivers are on the front lines, they’re put at risk every day as they deliver pharmaceutical and medical supplies, food and other essential items to businesses and individuals," Hadden said.
"They have to do these jobs. They’re working up to 12 hours a day. At the very least they should be able to go to the washroom and take basic health precautions, like washing their hands."
"We’re delivering and picking up dozens and dozens of packages every shift," said Kody Giroux, a courier driver in North Bay, Ont., and member of USW Local 1976.
"We’re exposed to a higher risk of infection every day and we have to worry about bringing that risk home to our families at the end of the day. We need to be able to reduce the risk as much as possible," Giroux said.
The situation is exacerbated by the fact that some transportation companies are having difficulty providing employees with necessities such as disinfectant gels and wipes.
"Companies are offering to reimburse workers who buy their own supplies, but they’re next-to-impossible to find," Hadden said.
Rest stops, gas stations and other businesses – particularly those that rely on deliveries from commercial drivers – must be required to allow drivers to use their washrooms, he added.
"We’re talking about tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of workers, who are affected," Hadden said.
"Governments have to act and ensure the message gets across."
Steven Hadden, USW Local 1976 President, 514-526-8280, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nathalie Lapointe, USW Staff Representative, email@example.com
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-434-2221, firstname.lastname@example.org