VANCOUVER -- A union representing Metro Vancouver transit security employees says workers are being put at risk because of a lack of readily available personal protective equipment during the pandemic.

MoveUp, which represents transit security working for Coast Mountain Bus Company, says employees only have access to face masks that are designed for personal use. 

"Transit security are the first responders when there are issues on buses, bus shelters, and SkyTrain stations and they have to deal directly with people to resolve issues or de-escalate volatile situations," said Christy Slusarenko, MoveUp vice president of combined units, in a news release. 

"The lack of (personal protective equipment) – specifically KN95 masks – not only puts these workers and their immediate families at risk, but it means anybody that has to interact with transit security is potentially at risk as well."

To address the issue, MoveUp's calling on CMBC and the province to ensure transit employees have access to PPE.

"With thousands of transit users every day, many who will come in close contact with transit security, this is a serious concern," Slusarenko said.

"Having appropriate PPE will go a long way towards putting our members' health and safety concerns at ease, but also in restoring confidence in public transit."

Last week, TransLink announced its ridership was slowly recovering as business sectors begin to reopen in B.C. Overall ridership, CEO Kevin Desmond said, had risen to about 20 per cent of the system's pre-pandemic levels. 

As ridership increases, TransLink is encouraging all transit users to wear non-medical face masks. Meanwhile, Plexiglas and vinyl barriers have been installed to protect drivers and capacity limits will be enforced. 

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Maria Weisgarber