More assaults, threats against bus drivers has union considering hiring security
Published Sunday, March 19, 2017 2:06PM CST
Last Updated Sunday, March 19, 2017 5:32PM CST
The president of the union representing Winnipeg Transit drivers said they might have to hire private security if the city won’t do more to protect drivers.
John Callahan of the Amalgamated Transit Union said one driver was slapped in the face and another driver had his life threatened on Saturday.
Around 2:30 p.m., a driver ordered an intoxicated woman off her bus at Memorial Boulevard after she repeatedly swore at the driver. The woman slapped the driver across the face with a newspaper, and during an ensuing scuffle, the driver’s shirt was ripped before the woman got off the bus.
In another incident, a male got on a bus and started acting erratically and causing a disturbance. He threatened to kill the driver and all the passengers on the bus before he was apprehended.
These incidents come as the ATU has called for the city to speed up plans to protect drivers following a series of alarming incidents involving threats and assaults on bus drivers, including the stabbing death of one driver on Feb. 14.
The city has ordered a safety study, which is expected to take three months to complete.
Callahan said the union doesn’t always hear about incidents that drivers face, but there has always been a steady stream of reports.
“As far as verbal disputes and spitting, it’s incredible how many numbers. We’re talking hundreds of altercations that don’t typically get reported that are now being reported to us. Those have been in the past year. We have to compile our numbers,” he said.
These incidents take a toll on the mental health of the drivers, Callahan said. “Verbal abuse, day after day, basically it’s bullying. And if you don’t have the tools to get that off your mind and off your chest, it will cause anguish.”
Drivers have said they don’t feel supported by the city, although public support for drivers has been strong, Callahan said.
The union is looking at hiring security to improve safety for drivers. “We shouldn’t have to pay for our own protection, but if that’s what we have to do in the interim, that’s what we’ll have to do,” he said.
Transit is also looking at increasing the number of supervisors during weekends. Some supervisors act as a safety patrol on the street. Callahan said he would like to get those members stab vests.
“We don’t have to be waiting for a report for that to happen,” he said. “I would like to sit down the director and say what can we do right now?”
Callahan said he had a good meeting on Friday with the acting manager of operations at Winnipeg Transit, Randy Tonnellier, but he has yet to meet with acting director Greg Ewankiw, or with Dave Wardrop, the chief transportation officer for the City of Winnipeg.
With files from Sarah Plowman