DOWNSVIEW, ON, Feb. 17, 2015 /CNW/ - The union that represents over 10,000 transit workers in Toronto and York Region today praised the Canadian Parliament for its unanimous passage yesterday of Bill S-221, which allows judges to impose stricter penalties on those convicted of assaulting public transit operators.
"It took over a decade of effort by our union to get recognition of this problem and we are grateful it has finally happened," said Bob Kinnear, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113.
"There are hundreds of assaults every year against TTC workers alone and many more across Canada," said Kinnear.
"Our members have been punched, slapped, kicked, strangled, stabbed and shot at, usually over a fare dispute. We have had cases where bus drivers have been dragged out of their seats and viciously beaten, just for doing their jobs. Several of our members have been hurt so badly that they cannot return to work and are forced to live the rest of their lives on inadequate workers' compensation payments. If there's such a thing as injustice, this is it."
Vehicle operators are also frequently spat on, threatened and have coffee and other liquids thrown at them.
"Police and firefighters have long had the additional protection of stiffer sentences for their assaulters; it's about time transit workers were afforded this consideration. We are not armed and cannot protect ourselves, especially when we have the added responsibility of protecting the safety of passengers on our vehicles."
Kinnear said that while the union welcomes the change to the Criminal Code, he does not understand why employees who do not operate vehicles, such as station collectors, are not covered.
"It is disappointing that some transit workers are excluded from this additional protection," he said. "Collectors have been threatened with guns and even shot and wounded. It was a Collector, Jimmy Trajceski, who was stabbed to death while on the job at Victoria Park Station in 1995. This exclusion is disappointing and we hope Parliament will revisit this oversight."
Bill S-221 was introduced in the Senate in May, 2014 and in the House in September, 2014. The first efforts of the union to change the Criminal Code began in 2004.
"We hope the message gets out to the courts and would-be assaulters. We put ourselves out there to perform a public service and we deserve to be better protected on the job," said Kinnear.
SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113
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