Winnipeg Transit proposes pilot project to test safety barriers for bus drivers

Winnipeg Transit is proposing a pilot project to test safety barriers for bus drivers following the killing of one of its employees.

Driver Irvine Jubal Fraser was stabbed multiple times in February when he tried to remove a sleeping passenger from the bus. It had reached the end of the line late at night and Fraser was about to go off shift.

A city council committee is to consider the recommendation along with other ideas to improve safety, including some form of transit police and encouraging passengers to report bad behaviour on buses.

John Callahan, head of the union local that represents 1,120 Winnipeg bus drivers, called the recommendations a good start Friday.

He said Fraser’s violent death three months ago is still on their minds.

“There is not a day that has gone by where it hasn’t been a hot topic,” said Callahan, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505.

“This is long overdue. We aren’t done yet.”

Winnipeg Transit said the recommendations are based on talks it held with its employees, the union and city police.

Discussions to find other ways to bolster safety are expected to continue with a proposed transit advisory committee.

Greg Ewankiw, a Winnipeg Transit spokesman, said the city provides about 170,000 passenger rides a day, or about 48 million a year.

“I think our transit system is safe, but things do happen on transit systems throughout Canada,” he said.

The pilot project will see drivers test three kinds of safety barriers on six buses.

If the pilot is successful and union members support the idea, a proposal to install barriers on the bus fleet would go to city council.

Callahan said he is disappointed the city is not proposing bus fare collection in which drivers would not be required to ensure that passengers paid.

The union will keep pushing for the change, he said.

“That is key,” he said. “Most of the altercations and assaults are the result of fare disputes.”

A freedom-of-information request in 2015 showed more than one million cases of underpayment during the first year of new electronic fare boxes in Winnipeg.

Callahan said safety barriers could work if they are well designed and don’t leave drivers too cramped, and most union members support the idea.

Right now, all buses are equipped with cameras and there is a proposal to install more.

Callahan said cameras are OK for reviewing fights, but the emphasis should be on taking steps to prevent assaults.

Brian Kyle Thomas was charged in February with second-degree murder in Fraser’s death.

Callahan said at the time that there had been 60 assaults on Winnipeg transit drivers in 2015. The number went down to 45 assaults in 2016, partly due to undercover officers who intervened in some disputes.

In March, passengers on a Winnipeg bus disarmed a man who had an axe and brass knuckles. Police said passengers took the weapons away from him without incident before they and the driver escorted him off the bus.

The man was charged with possession of a weapon and breaching a recognizance.

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Court dismisses injunction on STC closure


A judge has dismissed an injunction that would stop the closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

In a written decision delivered Friday, Justice L.M. Schwann wrote that the provincial government has the authority to shut down a Crown corporation if it sees fit to do so.

“Funding decisions concerning the allocation of public financial resources fall within the policy-making function of the government as a whole,” read the decision. “Those sorts of decisions are of a political nature and considered immune from a judicial review.”

Lawyers for Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1374 argued that the move violated the province’s Crown Corporations Public Ownership Act. The union argued that the government needed to hold consultations and discussions on the merits of shutting down the STC.

It also argued the sudden closure of the STC would hurt citizens, especially people in rural and remote areas of the province.

Lawyers added that shutting down the bus company amounted to privatization, because the closure would lead to private companies taking the place of the STC. The judge disagreed.

The provincial government said it was pleased with the ruling and would continue with plans to shut down the corporation.

“Today’s judgment by Justice Schwann has affirmed the legality of our government’s actions regarding the wind up of STC,” read a release from the province. “Wind up efforts will continue accordingly. We want to thank the Court for rendering the decision quickly.”

Meanwhile, the Amalgamated Transit Union admitted it was disappointed by the ruling, and is currently looking over the decision to see if there are grounds to appeal.

“This was our last stand, basically,” said union local president Eric Carr. “Next week, the doors are closing and people are walking away.”

The decision to shut down the STC was announced in this spring’s provincial budget. In the last fiscal year, the bus company lost more than $13 million dollars.

The province has hired the business services firm KPMG to sell all of STC’s assets and will come up with a plan to maximize the amount of money that would come from a sale.

The last day for passengers to ride an STC bus is May 31.

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Contentious CLC report on ATU crisis falls short


On March 27, CLC Investigator Barry Thorsteinson submitted an 11 page report to CLC President Hassan Yussuff on the ATU Local 113 crisis. His report notes that with the March 17 withdrawal of Bob Kinnear’s request for the CLC’s justification proceedings, the case ends with the filing of his report. No full investigation is to be conducted.ORIGINAL

The Thorsteinson report makes a number of preliminary findings. The first is that Unifor stands in violation of the CLC Constitution for its interference in this dispute. The report notes that the CLC will determine what response if appropriate.

Thorsteinson’s report also notes that the ATU has failed to cooperate fully with the justification process by ceaseless attempts to discredit the CLC and calls for the process to terminate. To a much lesser extent, during this investigation as described earlier is two specific instances of refusals to cooperate by withholding requested information.

The report also finds that President Yussuff and the CLC were not involved in any plot to assist Kinnear, or Unifor, in the justification process.

Hassan Yussuff sent a letter along with a copy of the report to the affiliates. In that brief letter he notes the investigator cleared the CLC and that he calls for unions to strengthen the Article 4 protocol.

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Transit union leads rally for reversal of Sask. government’s STC cut

People gathered on the steps of Saskatchewan’s legislature Thursday to protest the government’s impending closure of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company.

The rally was organized by the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1374, the union representing the employees whose jobs will be eliminated when the service closes by the end of May.

“We don’t elect governments, we un-elect governments, so Mr. Wall, remember that,” ATU Local 1374 president Eric Carr told the crowd.

Demonstrators, including labour and student groups, called on the government to reverse its decision to scrap the provincial bus company, saying that in addition to employees who will be out of work, rural residents and low-income earners who depend on the service will be hurt by the cut.

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Seniors, students and bus drivers rally to save STC


The final days for the Saskatchewan Transportation Company (STC) are ticking down, but pleas to save it have not stopped.

The Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1374 organized a rally on the front steps of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building and were joined by members of CUPE, SEIU West, Students Mobilizing Against Cuts, Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry, seniors, STC riders and STC operators to call on the government to rethink its decision to decommission the STC.

Ken Younghans has been an operator for more than 20 years and although he will soon be unemployed, his main concern is about the people who ride the bus.

“I’m not happy I’m losing my job, but in the same respect, I can find another job. But the people in this province are not going to get the same quality of service they have been getting for the past 71 years,” he said after the rally. “As a taxpayer I think what this government is doing is appalling. It’s disrespectful and I think they need to wake up and smell the coffee because they are hurting a lot of people. They are hurting the people who voted them in — the rural people.”

Younghans is worried about what will happen to those who depend on the bus like seniors, the isolated and the sick.

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National Day of Mourning 2017

Friday, April 28, 2017, is the National Day of Mourning. We at ATU Canada remember those who have lost their lives or suffered an injury or illness on the job.

ATU Canada remembers and honours all fallen workers, and we fight for increased safety in the workplace.