News / Winnipeg

Bus drivers to rally for improved transit safety at city hall

Transit workers from Winnipeg and across Canada will rally outside of Winnipeg City Hall to call for improved safety conditions.

Transit operators listened in on the mayor's promise to work with the union to improve safety, Tuesday.

Braeden Jones/ Metro

Transit operators listened in on the mayor's promise to work with the union to improve safety, Tuesday.

Transit workers from Winnipeg and beyond will rally in front of city hall Friday to call for improved safety measures after one of their own was killed earlier this week.

“We don’t want this death to be in vain,” said the president of the local Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) 1505, John Callahan. “The message we want to get out there is obviously about improved operator safety.”

He said practically all of the local ATU’s 1,500 some members think the city and Winnipeg Transit could do more to protect bus drivers.

For example, when Winnipeg bus driver Irvine Fraser was fatally stabbed early Tuesday morning, he was wrapping up a late Monday night shift on the University of Manitoba campus—Callahan thinks routes could terminate in a busier pedestrian area.

Having a “hub” for drivers to pull up to could also provide them with additional staff support like an “inspector” to help operators remove unruly passengers from their buses.

Callahan also plans to call for “dedicated transit police officers” to ride buses, and a campaign to better educate the public on transit policies and rules.

But he said the rally, just days after Fraser’s death, is not just about advocacy in his name.

“It’s also an opportunity for folks to get together and do some healing,” he said, noting ATU national President Paul Thorp and “representatives from other locals across Canada” will be in attendance.

In a prepared statement, ATU International president Larry Hanley said the ATU “demands that transit agencies and government officials bring the same sense of regret that they will display in the public mourning of this tragic, unnecessary death… to the ongoing discussion about preventing these attacks from occurring.”

Other residents of the city of Winnipeg, who have chipped in to raise nearly $30,000 through online campaigns for Fraser’s family, are also invited to join “in solidarity.”

The rally will take place at 10 a.m. in front of city hall on Main Street.

Callahan said his hope is that the powers-that-be in city hall will hear the call for safety, adding he knows he already has the ear of Mayor Brian Bowman.

“I met with the mayor (Thursday) morning and we went down to the (Fort Rouge) Transit Garage—he stood in the cafeteria for an hour and a half and just listened to bus operators, their stories and concerns,” he said. “I think he was pretty close to tears… he got blasted, but he listened, he took it.”

Police charged 22-year-old Brian Kyle Thomas with second-degree murder in connection to Fraser's death.

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