BALTIMORE — Employees of the Charm City Circulator bus reached out to WMAR-2 News with concerns over their working conditions amid COVID-19.
With at least one employee recently testing positive, concerns over a lack of cleaning and exposure to COVID-19 positive people has amplified.
The Charm City Circulator is a free service run by the city through a company called RMA.
On April 18, Mayor Jack Young ordered all passengers to wear face masks on public transit.
A driver who wants to remain anonymous says not enough was being done to keep drivers safe before or after that order.
“We were not given the proper PPE, we have been purchasing our own disinfectant,” she said. “We have not been receiving hazard pay, we just got a $1.50 hazard pay on our last paycheck. “
She shared an email from RMA notifying the staff that an employee tested positive.
“I have been in a car, in our relief car with people who have come in contact with those residents. I have been in contact with the person who tested positive and we weren’t notified until a day later when they knew a whole 24 hours before they notified us.”
She said Charm City Circulator drivers have been responsible for transporting people from homeless shelters to hotels that tested positive for COVID-19.
“No bus operator wore a face mask, the bus was not disinfected. The bus was put back out on Baltimore City streets for revenue which potentially infected the population.”
The company promised to up their sanitation efforts on their buses and their offices when they sent the email on Thursday, the day after the driver tested positive.
Multiple drivers that WMAR-2 News's Eddie Kadhim spoke to on Monday say that still hasn’t happened.
“We were told that they were calling in a COVID-19 clean team to come and sanitize the lot, the buses. Nothing has been shut down and cleaned. Even the MTA had to shut down their whole entire lot for at least 3 days to sanitize. Charm City Circulator has not shut down and sanitized.”
Another concern is that all paid time off and vacation has been suspended as shown in this email to employees.
“I’m a single mother, so it’s not just I’m a mother and I’m the sole provider. It is a bigger weight on my shoulders. My children are worried. Everyday that I leave out the door they ask why I have to go to while everyone gets to quarantine. I have to explain to them when I come home I have to take off my uniform. I cannot hug and kiss my children I have to take my uniform off.”
In total now more than five employees have reached out to WMAR, all echoing these concerns.
WMAR-2 News's Eddie Kadhim reached out to RMA about these concerns.
Gigi Bridgers, Vice President of Operations for RMA Worldwide Chauffeured Transportation, said RMA cleans and disinfects all of its vehicles and drivers’ lounges every day, including buses used for the operation of the Charm City Circulatory, and has been doing so for many weeks. RMA uses products and procedures that adhere to CDC guidelines.
She went on to say that RMA has not asked anyone, in Baltimore or elsewhere, to transport someone whom RMA knows has tested positive and that they cannot publicly share personnel information.
Bridges stated RMA has always instructed its employees to stay home and get tested if they are sick, or if they feel that they have developed any symptoms that the CDC has considered symptoms of the Coronavirus. If an RMA employee tests positive for COVID-19, RMA responds in accordance with CDC guidelines and DOT requests daily updates of health information.
According to Bridges, RMA is actively following CDC guidelines to attempt to protect the health and wellbeing of all of its employees and our passengers. All employees working on the Charm City Circulator are required to have a face covering on before they walk on to the grounds of any facility or bus and are required to keep their face coverings on while they drive and until they leave the grounds.
Similarly, all passengers boarding the Charm City Circulator are required to wear face coverings and enter through the rear entrance — minimizing contact with any driver.
She also said while RMA does not disclose matters relating to employee compensation, RMA previously implemented a temporary pay increase to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of its employees during these challenging times.
WMAR-2 News's Eddie Kadhim also reached out to DOT about these concerns and is still waiting to hear back.