TORONTO, Feb. 9 /CNW/ - The leader of Toronto's 10,000-member transit union said today his organization wants to meet face-to-face with TTC customers in a series of "town hall meetings" to hear their complaints and suggestions and promote mutual understanding.
ATU Local 113 president Bob Kinnear told a packed morning news conference that his members have been very affected by the stormy public reaction to recent media reports and random Internet postings showing a handful of fellow workers not fully engaged in their work.
"As a union, we acknowledge that there are things we can do as workers to improve the customer experience," Kinnear said. "We are prepared to listen to constructive criticism and take it to heart."
Kinnear pointed out, however, that most TTC service issues are problems over which the workers have no control, such as fares, routes, schedules, number of available vehicles, traffic, weather, and so on.
"We want the public to understand the difference between those service issues front line employees cannot change and those we can. We will work on what we can change.
Although he extended an olive branch to the vast majority of TTC customers, Kinnear had strong words for "a distinct minority" of passengers who have been harassing transit workers through insults, assaults such as spitting, and the new public hobby of videocam stalking of drivers taking washroom and coffee breaks.
Video harassment has demoralized many operators "who now fear taking a few minutes for a needed washroom break because they don't want to be subjected to public ridicule or embarrassment," said Kinnear, adding that it was "an affront to human dignity and a violation of simple decency."
Kinnear saved his sharpest words for Chief General Manager Gary Webster, who recently issued what Kinnear called a "petulant" email in which Webster complained he was "tired of defending the TTC." Webster repeatedly blamed all employees for the spike in customer dissatisfaction, ignoring poor management decisions, such as the recent token fiasco and the St. Clair line cost overrun, along with the chronic underfunding of the TTC by governments.
"He's only been Chief General Manager for four years and before that he was General Manager of Operations for only ten years. How could any of this customer service dissatisfaction possibly be Mr. Webster's fault?" Kinnear asked ironically.
Kinnear said full details of the town hall meetings had not been developed yet but that they would be well-publicized, held at times convenient for public participation and involve community leaders as moderators.
Kinnear's full statement can be seen at www.wemovetoronto.ca.
SOURCE Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 113
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