News / Winnipeg

Winnipeg bus drivers' union getting 'desperate,' considers hiring private security

John Callahan, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505, says two more drivers were assaulted over the weekend.

Winnipeg bus drivers close down Portage and Main after gathering to support each other at a rally for Irvine Fraser, who was killed by a passenger, and to demand safety improvements on buses outside city hall in Winnipeg, Friday, February 17, 2017.

John Woods / The Canadian Press

Winnipeg bus drivers close down Portage and Main after gathering to support each other at a rally for Irvine Fraser, who was killed by a passenger, and to demand safety improvements on buses outside city hall in Winnipeg, Friday, February 17, 2017.

The union representing Winnipeg Transit operators is getting “desperate” to find solutions to protect drivers from assaults that happen almost daily, according to its president.

John Callahan of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1505 said that’s why they're considering hiring private security guards -- a move he’s not even sure is legal.

“It’s a desperate measure, but if that’s what it takes because we can’t wait 90 days and hope for the best and leave our operators hanging,” he said Monday.

That 90-day wait is the deadline a committee approved for the transit department to produce a report on the safety measures currently in place for drivers.

Callahan accused the department of using that as an excuse to not take immediate action, which he believes is necessary since the stabbing death of driver Irvine Jubal Fraser Feb. 14.

“I feel that transit should be doing everything they can at this point, err on the side of caution, put extra support out there, but that’s just not happening, he said, adding only one extra supervisor has been assigned to nights.

Two more drivers were put in harm’s way this past weekend, Callahan said.

In one incident, he said, a female passenger, who was reported to have been drunk, spat on a female driver, slapped her across the face with a newspaper and ripped the pocket off her uniform after the driver asked her to get off the bus.

He explained the other assault happened when a male passenger threatened to kill a driver and all the passengers on board.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Callahan of the incidents.

Besides eyeing new security, members are also being asked to fill out a survey on workplace safety, including if they support driver shields being installed, which he plans to present to the city.

He also said the union has a meeting planned with transit’s manager of operations this week to discuss security. 

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