OTTAWA (May 7, 2013) – Thirty-one leaders with the Canadian Council of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) have come to Ottawa to convince the Government of Canada that their members – 30,000 strong – need more protection from a growing number of on-duty assaults.
“It’s becoming increasingly more dangerous for our members to do their jobs,” says Mike Mahar, Director of the Canadian Council. “The frequency and severity of attacks on on-duty transit workers continues to rise. In Canada, 40 per cent of bus operators are assaulted on duty during the course of their careers.”
The ATU wants the federal government to strengthen the deterrent against such violence through an amendment to the Criminal Code that would mandate that an assault on on-duty transit operators qualify as an aggravating factor for sentencing purposes.
ATU representatives will be discussing the issue with Members of Parliament and Senators today.
The ATU is supported in its campaign by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, Police Associations, and numerous MPs and Senators.
Right now, the laws aren’t adequately protecting us,” says Mahar. “There have been cases where one of our members has been attacked by an assailant in the morning. The assailant has been arrested by police, released, and then has returned in the afternoon to assault the member again.”
Mahar believes “such individuals should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The change to the Criminal Code we’re requesting will ensure that they are.”
Mahar observes that transit operators frequently work alone, and during all hours of the day and night. They work in a compartment with no escape route, and many times are in complete or near isolation. All of this leaves operators far more vulnerable than the average worker.
Despite years of increased efforts by the transit industry to reduce the number of assaults through training, real time support and the installation of cameras, the attacks continue to rise. The assaults range from being spat on, to being punched, to knife attacks and sexual assault. Many of these injuries are life-threatening and career-ending.
All of them are degrading and criminal.
“The assaults on our members cannot be tolerated,” says Mahar. “At a time when public transit needs to grow to support commerce in areas like Toronto and Hamilton, many are leaving the industry because of these threats –and many are choosing not to enter it.”