Covid 19 has forever changed the work environment of many employees as well as introducing or intensifying the effects their occupation has on their personal lives. Employees will have to adjust to a new sense of reality in the workplace. For those working on the frontlines at the airport the pandemic has dropped a great amount of responsibility on their shoulders due to the potential of infection while traveling and the measures put in place to reduce the spread of the virus.
Teanna Hylton 23, has worked in the Pearson airport since November 2019. She is a security supervisor and is responsible for Monitoring Employees and handling any scheduling concerns. Due to her position Hylton does not typically come into direct contact with passengers. Despite this fact the infection prevention measures implemented against Covid affects her workload regardless. There has been a major shift on how things run at the airport and with pronounced effects on the employees leaving them with triple duties than before. This is a result of airports being forced to have smaller workforces due to reduced revenue while assigning the remaining workers with a greater workload. “It’s changed a lot of the stuff we do now…. just the setup of new calls for mask enforcement, testing arrivals..and a lot of stress for my position.” Juggling school and work, a task already stressful, has become more difficult during these trying times. Hylton expresses how emotionally draining it can be working forty hours overtime bi-weekly while her days off are spent strictly focused on completing school assignments and preparing for evaluations.
When she accepted the job she was living at home with her mother in Woodstock. After months of sleepovers and hectic transit Hylton decided to find a place with a roommate during the pandemic allowing her to be closer to her job. Being away from home and not being able to see her family especially during the holidays has been hard. “We live in two different regions and we don’t want to risk being exposed. She has a medical condition with asthma and breathing problems and my little brother who is little he can’t afford to get covid.”
Despite the precautions enforced by the airport’s guidelines Hylton experiences anxiety about contracting the virus due to trips she deems as non essential travel, “I’ll give you an example the other day there was a Barbados flight that landed and it was bunch of families coming off with kids and everybody looked nice and tanned…seems like there’s more vacations happening then essential travel so I just think people need to stay home.” According to Statistics Canada 73,200 Canadians residents returned home from traveling overseas and have gone up slightly since October.
“I did not get tested, they only said to quarantine for 14 days,” says Abyenaa Liburd, a student attending Medical University of the Americas in Nevis. When the semester was over in November 2021 she decided to go back to Toronto to spend time with her family. Given that there are no mandatory testing upon arrival at the airport this leaves colleagues anxious as they have to interact with these travellers. According to Toronto Pearson airport starting February 21, 2021 travelers will be required to take a COVID19 test on arrival in Canada. The government of Canada has also announced a suspension of flights starting January 31 to April 30, 2021 this includes flights to Mexico and the Caribbean. These new measures decrease the amount of people traveling and reduces the risk of exposure.
Since the pandemic, Airport workers have been watching the travel industry change in front of their eyes while struggling to enforce and follow protocols to stay safe as they handle a life of their own.