A dispute over COVID-19 concerns for London Transit Commission (LTC) drivers came to a head over the weekend after a number of drivers refused to allow people in wheelchairs to board buses, CTV News has learned.

One of those people was Penny Moore, who says when she tried to take the bus to go shopping she was refused - not by one, but by two different drivers on separate buses.

“The bus driver there opened the door and started yelling at me and said ‘Do you know about the new rules?’ And I said ‘What new rules?’ He said ‘We’re not taking disabled and we’re not strapping them in.’ I said ‘I have the right to get the necessity and food like everybody else.’”

Moore says she did manage to get on each bus eventually, both only with the help of kindly fellow passengers.

CTV News has learned of six work refusals over the weekend by LTC drivers concerned over COVID-19.

One of the cases was resolved, but five other cases involved the Ontario Ministry of Labour. It ruled that drivers cannot turn away passengers with wheelchairs, and they are required to strap them in.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 741 President Andre Fournier says drivers are concerned about getting close to passengers because they don’t have personal protective equipment.

“Right now they’re going through hell. There’s a lot of anxiety, stress. They’re afraid they’re going to take the COVID-19 home with them. Of course we sympathize with, you know, with people with mobility issues. But for them to get in close and strap, they’re touching the people. They’re touching their equipment and it’s just scary.”

LTC Chair, Councillor Phil Squire, says he sympathizes with drivers, but everyone must be allowed to board the bus.

“If we denied that right we would be into a human rights dispute that we would surely lose.”

Squire adds that drivers have been provided with an instructional video on how to safely tie-down mobility devices like wheelchairs.

As for Moore, she says a little compassion would go a long way.

“If you know someone that’s disabled, someone that’s senior, someone that doesn’t have a vehicle to go anywhere to get something - ask them if they need something when they go out, and also treat everybody with respect. Even though I’m disabled, I’m still a person. I have feelings too.”