World Toilet Day highlights access issues for transportation workers

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In recognition of World Toilet Day, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) is highlighting the need for safe access to washroom facilities for transportation workers, made more urgent with the additional challenge of a pandemic.

“Safe access to decent sanitary facilities, sanitation systems, and most importantly the ability to use them when needed, is truly a global issue that is widely and deeply felt by all transport workers, and now with COVID-19 it is amplified one-thousand fold,” said Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer Lana Payne, as Chair of the ITF virtual sanitation action forum.

An ITF Executive Board member, Payne was invited to chair the international online forum on World Toilet Day, November 19, 2020, which brought together representatives from 33 countries and 47 unions on behalf of workers from road, rail, urban and warehousing sectors.

“Women workers have specific health and safety concerns relating to their need to access appropriate, safe, secure and clean sanitary facilities in a timely manner,” Payne told forum participants, which included frontline transportation workers from around the globe.

Payne has actively worked to improve the availability of washrooms in transportation, including the facilitation of Unifor financial support for the gathering of workers’ stories.

“Transport and warehouse workers continue to be on the frontline of this pandemic, yet we have workers even here in Canada who are encountering barriers to accessing proper sanitation facilities or adequate toilet breaks,” said Payne. “This access is fundamental both to human dignity, a person’s health and safety and to the prevention of infection.”

In April 2020, the ITF launched their Covid-19 demands for safe access to sanitation, including urgent necessary actions needed by employers and governments. The demands expand on the IFT Transport Workers’ Sanitation Charter, launched last World Toilet Day in 2019, which also emphasized the experiences of women transport workers and improvements needed to provide a safe and inclusive workplace. The ITF is calling on all affiliates to sign an Open Letter with demands for employers to improve sanitation access. The Letter will be shared with all Unifor locals.

World Toilet Day aims to raise awareness of the 4.2 billion people worldwide who live without access to safely managed sanitation, develop strategies to address the crisis, and achieve sustainable development with the goal of water and sanitation for all by 2030.

Each year the United Nations sets a theme, in 2020 focusing on ‘Sustainable sanitation and climate change’. This year’s education campaign provides information on how toilets help to protect public health and fight climate change.

Sanitary toilets, combined with clean water and good hygiene, form a strong and cost-efficient defence against COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks. While climate change effects such as contaminated floodwater threaten water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure around the world, proper toilet facilities can help to combat climate change with the productive use of waste to safely boost agriculture, and reduce and capture emissions for greener energy.

To download World Toilet Day sharables or for more information visit