The union representing TTC workers is calling on the transit agency to supply its frontline employees with personal protective equipment, including face masks, to help protect staff from contracting COVID-19.

In a statement released by ATU Local 113, which represents approximately 12,000 transit workers in Toronto and York Region, the union said operators and other employees are “exposed to thousands of riders each day” and their employer must supply staff with face masks and other protective equipment.

“With Premier Doug Ford warning of a coronavirus surge in Ontario, TTC management must move fast to protect public transit workers,” Carlos Santos, the president of the union, said in the statement sent out on Monday.

“As Ontario looks to meet demand for PPE, we must remember our public transit workers who are among the heroes of this pandemic. We must find a way to protect health care professionals and all those working on the frontlines during this health crisis, including public transit workers.”

The TTC previously confirmed that six employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

The employees include a mechanic, a Wheel-Trans operator, a subway operator, a bus driver, a fare collector, and a non-unionized TTC supervisor.

In the early stages of the pandemic, the TTC refused to allow staff to wear masks, citing advice from public health officials.

But the transit agency, facing mounting pressure from the union, later reversed its position, allowing employees to wear their own masks if they choose.

In recent weeks, experts in other jurisdictions have encouraged members of the public to use masks to help slow the spread of the virus.

“With public health officials looking at new guidelines on face masks, it only makes sense for the TTC to do the same and help find masks to protect workers. Public transit workers have been right all along that we must do everything to protect people, including the choice to wear masks,” Santos said.

Overcrowding on several routes prompted the union to make additional recommendation to its members last week.

ATU Local 113 has instructed operators to limit the number of passengers on vehicles to no more than 15 people.

In a memo sent to members, the union said passengers should be limited to 10 on regular buses and 15 on articulated buses to allow for appropriate physical distancing.