ATU Canada Stands With Thunder Bay Bus Operators Demanding Bus Shields

TORONTO, Ontario-- The Canadian President of the largest transit union in the country is echoing the call for increased safety infrastructure in Thunder Bay, Ontario where a bus operator was brutally assaulted on Boxing Day during a fare dispute.

ATU Local 966 of Thunder Bay is seeking a commitment from the City Council for the implementation of transparent protective barriers and panic buttons on all conventional buses. Their call has been met with positive responses from City Council and the Mayor, who are presently debating the City’s budget for 2020. ATU Canada stands with the Thunder Bay bus operators, recognizing that ATU members in cities across Canada, including Toronto, Winnipeg, and Edmonton, have the protection of these physical barriers to prevent physical assault.

What happened to this bus driver is not an isolated incident but is a vicious pattern that is all too familiar to those in the public transit industry. Violent acts, as well as the fear of violence, are increasingly common and have an unfathomable impact on the physical and emotional health of operators.

“There are about 2000 transit operator assaults each year in this country,” said ATU Canada President John Di Nino. “What we need is all levels of government to come together and pass a comprehensive law similar to the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act in the United States.”

Di Nino is referencing H.R. 1139 – Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act that is currently being studied in the House of Representatives in the United States. This bill is being driven by political action from the Amalgamated Transit Union.

“Our Protection Act calls for the federal government to mandate that transit authorities create a risk reduction program in conjunction with the workforce and identify what are the threats on the system, whether its sexual assaults on passengers, bus blind spots, ergonomic issues in the operator compartment or assaults on bus operators. The second piece is a national database to report on these issues and benchmark the systems against one another for accountability and transparency for the riding public and the workers in these transit systems,” said John Di Nino.

ATU Canada further supports immediate measures to drive down the risks of aggression against operators: fair fare policies, ease of payment, and system convenience are factors that can improve the rider experience of transit and mitigate the triggers that most often lead to assaults. The implementation of better safety policies, including physical barriers, de-escalation training, and mitigation tactics are central to making the system a safe and reliable space for riders and workers.