THUNDER BAY -- The Amalgamated Transit Union is calling on the City of Thunder Bay to develop better processes and quicker responses for dealing with assaults on bus drivers.
Local 966 President Ken Koza made the request in a statement detailing an alleged assault that occurred on a transit bus on September 14.
According to the ATU, the incident began with an elderly female passenger reporting to the driver that a male passenger was verbally harassing her.
The operator pulled the bus to the side of the road and repeatedly asked the male to get off.
At that point, it's alleged, he punched the driver in the stomach, then fled after the driver told him he had just committed an assault.
Koza said "Transit operators are entitled to a safe work environment, and the public deserves safe public transportation. This type of behaviour is completely unacceptable and this person should be held responsible to fullest extent of the law under Bill S-221."
Bill S-221 amended the Criminal Code to make it an aggravating circumstance that a court must consider when the victim of an assault is the driver of a city or intercity bus, school bus, taxi, ferry, train or subway train.
According to Koza, earlier this month another Thunder Bay Transit driver was verbally harassed to the point that the individual is now seeking medical help. "All because they told a customer she had to pay $2.75 to ride," he said.
Recently there are more and more cases, he said, where passengers board the bus with the preconceived notion that they don't have to pay the fare, and when the driver tells them otherwise, they become belligerent and aggressive.
Koza's not sure where that attitude is originating.
The ATU president said it's sad to say that bus drivers have started to come to accept the fact they will be yelled at during some part of their day. "Nobody needs to be treated like this and it needs to stop," he said.
He added that these kinds of incidents take a mental toll on drivers who are just trying to do their job by upholding the Code of Conduct on the bus.
Although Koza indicated that Thunder Bay Police were told about the incident, a police spokesperson said Tuesday that they have no record of it.