TTC, union offer different views on driver complaints

Occasionally, readers send me e-mails describing examples of rudeness on the part of TTC drivers. I also hear stories of conduct so unacceptable the reader feels an employee should be fired.


What is the appropriate action for a rider who genuinely believes they have been treated unfairly? Ignoring it is one possibility. Addressing the issue directly with the driver might go two ways — the problem is resolved or some degree of conflict ensues.


Then there is the TTC’s formal process for complaints and commendations. Whether by phone, e-mail or letter, it helps to provide as many details as possible — especially the time, location and four-digit vehicle number. Howard Smith, general superintendent of surface transportation, says a transit representative may contact a complainant for more information before the operator is identified and called in for an interview with a supervisor.


In addition to getting the employee’s point of view about the alleged incident, he says the official response could involve placing a plainclothes supervisor on that driver’s vehicle “to get an overview of how this operator conducts themselves out there.”


What comes next?

“Anything can happen from the operator being counselled, disciplined (or) dismissed,” says Smith. “Depending on the … seriousness of the complaint, and the history — if the operator has a history, we have a progressive discipline process in place. By contract with the union, we’re obligated to follow that … so when a complaint comes in, one of the first things we look at is how many complaints has this operator had against them (and) what kind of complaints.”

After lengthy conversations with several senior transit officials who believe the complaint process is fair both for the aggrieved rider and the employee, transit union president Bob Kinnear holds a much different view. He says operators have the impression the TTC has “a distrust for their own employees.”

“If there’s an operator out there that is continuously receiving complaints month after month — or on a fairly frequent basis — there’s a problem,” he says. “Obviously. But where we have the concern is — you know, we have people who receive customer service awards and then two weeks later are brought in on a complaint — they haven’t had a complaint in years and the company takes the position of whatever the complaint is, (it’s) factual.”

Kinnear continues, “Whatever the operator says is meaningless — the TTC does not take that into consideration. They treat the complaint as the gospel.”

Sounds like there’s a serious divergence of opinions within the TTC. Could the truth be somewhere in the middle?