Transit officials are working to protect the lives of their own front-line workers after three attacks on city bus drivers in a month’s span.
“Time for change is now,” Amalgamated Transit Union Local 569 president Stu Litwinowich said Thursday.
The union, representing the city’s 1,400 transit operators, has pushed for immediate implementation of security measures proposed over the past 18 months.
On Jan. 3, a driver was attacked following an argument over a fare. In mid-December, a driver was pepper sprayed after a fight broke out between two passengers. Earlier in the month, 58-year-old driver Tom Bregg was the victim of a vicious assault that left him with serious injuries.
Peace officers are now a permanent fixture at transit centres and on board buses.
“This last month was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” Litwinowich said. “We’re facilitating change sooner, rather than later.”
The goal is for officers to ride every route in the city, within the year, while ensuring passengers and drivers are safe.
“I’m hoping their presence will provide a semblance for security while on those buses,” Litwinowich said.
The union is supporting a private member’s bill, which, if passed, will offer transit employees the same protection rights as peace officers, he added.
However, Litwinowich said, it will take time until legislation is amended and for a municipal decision on mandatory plastic driver shields.
For now, transit security is using intelligence-led deployment to protect riders and their own, ETS security operations co-ordinator Glen Dennis said.
“We’re trying to be proactive, rather than reactive.”